As much as I love driving, I absolutely hate commutes. Though I"m normally one of the most centered and patient people I know, on the road I lose my patience quickly. But how many times have you seen someone driving too slow, or too fast, or straying across lanes, or floating through a red light or making an awkward turn - only to later discover the driver was chatting away with a cell phone in his or her left hand? As I was driving down Highway 101 recently, I saw a black SUV weaving inside the far right lane, just before the University Avenue exit in Palo Alto. It seemed like the car might shimmy over the dotted line, and several drivers nearby switched lanes to avoid it. When I pulled up even with the driver's window, I saw a woman pressing a cell phone to her ear. I wondered if she'd forgotten she was speeding down the road at 65 miles per hour. If I hadn't seen the phone, I would have assumed she was driving drunk. Its funny how stupid and incompetent people can be when they combine driving and talking at the same time. When someone is heavily into their conversation, their focus on the road decreases but increases of risk in killing or hurting themselves. Last year in California, at least 4,699 reported accidents were blamed on drivers using cell phones, and those crashes killed 31 people and injured 2,786, according to a recent analysis by The Times. Also, a few weeks ago the California Highway Patrol released a report that said talking on cell phones is the leading cause of crashes attributed to driver distraction.
Despite the danger, you can't legislate a solution. It comes back to taking personal responsibility. And the CHP study provides clear evidence that cell phone abuse is a dangerous habit. Although it is hard to ban cell phone use on the road, I purpose several ideas that might help. Such as using correct cell phone etiquette - if driving while talking on the cell phone is really necessary, enforce a law requiring usage of hands-free receiver technology is a must while driving.