Tuesday's lead editorial continues our call for lawmakers to give attention to the problem of cell-phone use while driving, as evidence mounts that the practice is as dangerous as driving drunk.
The danger in driving and talking on a cell phone is well documented, but the practice continues to grow with no indication that any action will be taken to stop it.
A report in The New York Times shows that drivers generally ignore the research about the dangers and "increasingly are using phones, navigation devices and even laptops to turn their cars into mobile offices, chat rooms and entertainment centers."
One does not have to drive far in the Myrtle Beach area to appreciate the accuracy of the report.
The dangers of distracted driving are clear: "Drivers using phones are four times as likely to cause a crash as other drivers, and the likelihood that they will crash is equal to that of someone with a .08 percent blood alcohol level."
A big part of the problem is the misperception of many drivers who "overestimate their own ability to safely multi-task, even as they worry about the dangers of others doing it." The truth is that "there are limits to how much the brain can multi-task." Johns Hopkins University professor Steve Yantis, whose expertise is in brain sciences, says the brain has trouble handling separate streams of information. He reminds us that when talking on the phone, we are doing more than listening. Problems occur when something unexpected happens, and the human mind simply cannot process the unexpected move in time to react.
Only five states, none near the South, ban motorists from using hand-held cellphones. Only 14 states have banned texting, a fact that is more than a little alarming given the obvious distraction to driving. The lack of bans shows the reluctance of state lawmakers to stop cell phone use behind the wheel, perhaps because so many lawmakers are among those talking on the phone while driving.
Personal choice is an important concern, but there is simply no question that drivers using cell phones behind the wheel are putting persons other than themselves at risk. Clearly, the personal choice should be not to drive distracted.