The essence of this paper is analyzing the effects of using cell-phones while driving and whether or not it should be legalized. By definition, a cell-phone refers to any mobile device that can be used to make calls, receive calls, send or receive text messages. A conversation of the other hand is the process of verbal communication which in this context is verbal/written information exchange between persons using cellular devices. Driving refers to the operation of an automobile at the road which includes occasional stops.
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It is important to note that the use of cell-phones while driving is not only a safety concern but also a social problem that needs redress sooner than yesterday. People have lost lives and property destroyed as a result of drivers using cell-phones while driving. Research shows that the risk posed by using a cell-phone while driving is four-fold compared to when a driver does not use a cell-phone while driving (McEvoy et al., 2005). While the use of hands-free cell-phone has been recommended on assumptions that it reduces the risks associated with cell-phones while driving, research has shown that the use of hands-free cell-phones equally poses significant danger during driving. The point is, in both scenarios, the driver’s attention to driving is decreased and this compromises his/her performance thus posing danger on the road (Törnros&Bolling, 2005). Therefore, regardless of the type of cell-phone being used, be it hands-free or hand-held, the use of cell-phone still poses significant danger to pedestrians, drivers, other drivers or even property erected off the roads.
The dangers associated with cell-phone use while driving
Using a cell-phone while driving poses significant dangers on the road and this may include traffic collisions. Experimental as well as naturalistic studies have pointed out that using a cell-phone while driving increases the risks of traffic collision by thirty percent. Several road accidents have resulted from the use of cell-phone while driving. About twenty percent of all accidents are blamed on cell-phone use while driving. It is natural for one to be distracted from task while using a cell-phone. In the context of driving, the driver loses his visual contact especially for the side and rearview mirrors with concentration on his/her front view. The inability to capture the peripheral information during driving usually results to accidents through collision. The argument that certain people can multi-task is a scapegoat for engaging in risky driving behaviors (Angela, 2011). Such activities do not require gambling. It is natural predisposition for the driver to take off his hands of the steering while picking a call or making a phone call. This may result to drivers’ change in performance maybe through change in speed, or delayed reaction. This is a potential hazard to other road users.
Whereas most drivers may hold the perception that cell-phone use while driving poses potential dangers on the road, this risk perception more often than not, is not a replica of their actual behavior. Additionally, drivers have always overlooked the potential danger of using hands-free cell-phones which makes the situation even worse because they obliviously engage in risky driving behaviors. Research on this context indicates that the social, psychological and perceived practical benefits of cell-phone use while operating automobiles far much outweigh the risks. However, one thing this research overlooks is the seriousness of the dangers posed by using cell-phones while driving in case they happen (McEvoy, 2005). Various arguments against have been made to the support of using cell-phones while driving and the arguments make a lot of sense. However, the arguments do not consider the other faction of the subject matter in terms of risks.
With the mass adoption of technology and cell-phones for that matter, concerns have been raised about the use of cell-phones while driving. Various groups such as the transportation safety groups have raised concerns on the same and called for the relevant actions against the risky driving behavior. In addition, the road safety policy makers have pointed out the need to ban the use of cell-phones while driving. Several countries, the United States for example, has enacted and enforced the restriction on the use of cell-phone while driving prior to the widespread diffusion of technology.
This paper attempts to elucidate on the risks vis-a vis the potential benefits of using a cell-phone while driving. On the same note, it also outlines a discussion of public policy issues on as to whether the use of cell-phones while driving should be legalized or not. However, it is imperative to understand that for the following reasons, policymakers have not been able to reach an informed decision as regards legalizing or banning cell-phone use while driving. First, it has been difficult for the policy makers to ascertain that the use of cellphones while driving is a direct causation of accidents and fatalities on the road despite establishing a significant concern for motorists as well as the road safety policy makers. The second consideration has been the fact that, too much attention is given to the risks of using cellphones while driving as opposed to its potential benefits. This imbalance in reasoning needs redress in as far as solving the issue of cellphones while driving is concerned. Lastly, the benefits of banning the use of cellphones while driving as a measure in curbing accidents is insignificant compared to other road safety measures.
Banning cellphone use is a policy that may not see the light of day or leave alone being implemented. However, there are several ways through which phone use while driving can be reduced. One effective way of reducing cellphone use while driving is the use of social pressure to curb the use of cellphones while driving. It should be a moral obligation for everyone to embrace the notion that using cellphones while driving is a risky behavior. Passengers by the same token have a role to play because they have the capacity to pressure their drivers from using cellphones while driving.
However, it is safe and acceptable practice for the driver to allow the passenger to pick his /her call. There are also possibilities to use technology to reduce the use of cellphones while driving. innovations towards solving this problem can be facilitated and implemented in effect to reducing the use of cellphones while driving since communication is inevitable regardless of whether on is driving or not. One best way of using technology to reduce this behavior is to programme automobiles to automatically switch of cellphones within the range of the drivers location. This would forcefully control the use of cellphones while driving.
The question as to whether the use of cellphones while driving should be legalized or not undoubtedly calls for an affirmative response. Cellphone use while driving has proved beyond all reasonable doubt that it is a risky behavior regardless of whether the cellphone is hand-held or hands-free. If there are no better solutions to mitigating the risks of cellphone while driving then there is no other option other than to illegalize or ban the use of cellphones while driving. This will help reduce accidents caused as result of negligence due to use of cellphone while driving (War, 2013).
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