Today’s Editorial April 18: Cell phones, vehicles a bad mix

Got a cell phone?

Got a motor vehicle?

Be careful when you’re using the two together.

Royal Cayman Islands Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan has given his ranks permission to pull over and cite any driver who’s talking on a cell phone and driving carelessly.

There’s no law in the Cayman Islands preventing drivers from chatting on their cell phones, but there is a law that makes being out of control of your vehicle a crime.

The commissioner said he was behind what he assumed was a drunk driver not long ago, but on further investigation realized the driver wasn’t drunk he was just gabbing on his phone.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, motorists who use cell phones while driving are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves.

The Institute studied drivers in Perth, Australia, to come up with that number.

The study also suggested that banning hand-held phone use won’t necessarily improve safety if drivers simply switch to hands-free phones.

The study found that injury crash risk didn’t vary with type of phone.

A study from the University of Utah found that motorists who talked on hands-free cell phones were 18 per cent slower in braking and took 17 per cent longer to regain the speed they lost when they braked. Another study by the same group found that drivers talking on hands-free cell phones were less likely to recall seeing pedestrians, billboards or other roadside features.

We found many other studies about cell phone use while driving, and they all pretty much say the same thing: Driving and cell phone usage don’t mix.

Conversations using a cell phone demand greater continuous concentration, which diverts the driver’s eyes from the road and his mind from driving.

Mr. Kernohan is right to target cell phone using drivers who are reckless.

So drivers, beware. It will be up to the officer who sees you on the cell phone in your vehicle to determine whether you are driving carelessly.

The best thing to do if you have to talk while driving is pull off the road – completely off the road – and make or accept your call.

For those who find that just too much of an inconvenience, shut up and drive.

If police find that driving and talking on cell phones is causing a problem, it is possible that legislation could be introduced to ban the practice.

It would be better if we could all fix this situation with self control.

We somehow managed to drive without cell phones when they weren’t around. And our roads were a lot safer.

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