A Risk or a Benefit?
As of 2000, there were about ninety million cell phone users in the United States, with 85% of them using their phones while on the road (Sundeen 1). Because of evidence that cell phones impair drivers by distracting them, some states have considered laws restricting their use in moving vehicles. Proponents of legislation correctly point out that using phones while driving can be dangerous. The extent of the danger, however, is a matter of debate, and the benefits may outweigh the risks. Unless the risks of cell phones are shown to outweigh the benefits, we should not restrict their use in moving vehicles; instead, we should educate the public about the dangers of driving while phoning and
prosecute irresponsible phone users under laws on negligent and reckless driving.
Assessing the risks
We have all heard horror stories about distracted drivers
chatting on their cell phones. For example, in a letter to the editor, Anthony Ambrose describes being passed by another driver “who was holding a Styrofoam cup and a cigarette in one hand, and a cellular telephone in the other, and who had what appeared to be a newspaper balanced on the steering wheel—all at
approximately 70 miles per hour” (128). Another driver, Peter Cohen, says that after he was rear-ended, the guilty party emerged from his vehicle still talking on the phone (127). Admittedly, some drivers do use their cell phones irresponsibly.a cellular telephone was not being used” (433). Although this conclusion sounds dramatic, Redelmeier and
Tibshirani caution against reading too much into it:
Our study indicates an association but not necessarily
a causal relation between the use of cellular telephones
while driving and a subsequent motor vehicle
collision. . . . In addition, our study did not include
serious injuries. . . . Finally, the data do not indicate
that the drivers were at fault in the collisions; it may
be that cellular telephones merely decrease a driver’s...
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