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Jan 24, 2019 in Analysis

Cell Phones While Driving Should Be Banned

Introduction

Cell phones have already become the integral components of our daily performance. Since the beginning of the 1980s, when the first cell phones appeared in the market, and up to the beginning of the new millennium, when a cell phone ceased to be a luxury, professionals and policymakers have been increasingly concerned about the effects of cell phones on driving. Thousands of researches have been conducted to prove the negative influence and distractive nature of cell phone use in cars, and although, in urgent situations, the use of a cellular phone may become a real savior, the use of cell phones during driving should be banned. The need for such ban is justified by the fact that the use of cell phones during driving is the direct cause of collisions, fatalities, injuries, and property damage, because those who use cell phones are distracted from the road and cannot control the visual information.   

In its current state, the use of cell phones during driving is surrounded by numerous controversies. 42 state legislatures are waiting for 250 bills prohibiting the use of cell phones while driving to be passed (O’Donnell). Just 18 months ago the number of such bills in the U.S. did not exceed 120, meaning that the situation with cell phones and driving is becoming tough (O’Donnell). States seek any means possible to put a ban on or to restrict the use of cellular phones in cars while driving. The problem is not in that state authorities want to make the lives of drivers more difficult. The problem is not also in that state authorities want to earn a share of profits, which technology companies have from investing in the development and selling practical hands-free devices. The problem is in that the use of cell phones during driving is associated with the major health and fatality risks for drivers, and even if they do not want to think about their own safety, they should at least become more concerned about the safety of other traffic participants. 

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The need for putting a ban on cell phone use during driving is justified by the recent experimental findings, which explain how brain activity like talking (using cell phones) interferes with other brain tasks, including visual information processing (driving). The recent study of the University of South Carolina measured the “attention level and found that subjects were four times more distracted while preparing to speak or speaking than when they were listening” (Science Daily). In other words, when using a cell phone and talking while driving, drivers become increasingly distracted from the road and can no longer control their driving actions. The limited brain capacities cannot balance the information incoming from a person at the other side of the telephone line and the visual information from the road. As a result, drivers can no longer control what is going on around them. A conversation is always an emotional contribution, and any cell phone user during the talk wants to make a contribution greater than his (her) interlocutor (Science Daily), and it is natural that one’s brain is distracted from what is happening with the driver, with the car, and with the traffic around. This lack of attention becomes the major cause of injuries, fatalities, and collisions on the road. 

The degree to which the driver is distracted from the road largely depends on the three essential factors: the driving environment, the driver’s characteristics, and the nature of the conversation (Schmidt & Lee 112). That means that the more active the conversation is, the more emotional the reactions are; and the more complex and intensive the driving environment is, the less likely the driver is to hold the grip of control over the situation. In this context, older drivers are more vulnerable to the risks of collisions and injuries, if they use their cell phones during driving (Schmidt & Lee 112), but that does not mean that younger drivers do not have to be cautious and have the right to use their cell phones while driving. The problem is in that the ways in which handheld phones are used during driving are not limited to talking, but are associated with other related actions and moves. These may include searching for a phone, reaching for a phone to receive or to make a call, holding the cell phone near the ear while talking or dialing, and even picking up the phone after it has been dropped (Lissy et al 15). The seconds that pass while the driver is searching for his (her) phone are enough to cause a serious traffic incident. The talk itself is about the need for the driver to contribute a certain amount of energy, coordination, and time which he would have otherwise used to drive more attentively. Dialing is fairly regarded as the most risky activity related to the use of cell phones during driving, especially if the conversation suddenly broke (Lissy et al 18). However, even the mere presence of the cell phone in the car and the vision of the cell phone in the close proximity to the driver make it difficult for the latter to concentrate on the major driving tasks. Thus, a cell phone stands as the major driver’s distraction and the major health and safety risk; and if drivers fail or are not willing to recognize these risks, they should be officially restricted from using cell phones during driving.

 
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Of course, proponents of cell phone use in cars will try to justify their actions by urgent business purposes and by the fact that they use hands-free devices. At some point of technological advancement, hands-free speaking devices seemed to have resolved the issue of cell phone use during driving, and drivers could finally feel secure in their cars. Unfortunately, the real situation is not as optimistic as someone may try to present it. Hands-free devices are as dangerous to drivers as handheld cell phones, and there is no real difference between the two. Schmidt and Lee write that “most experimental studies have shown no differences in performance decrements when handheld cell phones and hands-free phones were compared directly” (113). Although the use of a hands-free phone saves the driver from the need to search for or to pick up the dropped phone, it does not reduce the extent, to which the driver is involved in a conversation; and the level of this involvement is the critical measure of collision and injury/ fatality risks during driving. Moreover, regardless of whether the driver uses a hands-free phone or a conventional handheld phone, his (her) reactions during the conversation change significantly, and make the driver less sensitive to what is happening on the road (Schmidt & Lee 114). Thus, the ban on using cell phones during driving should also extend to cover all types of hands-free devices. In light of these effects, it is natural that insurance companies now offer parents significant discounts if the latter agree to use technology, which disables their teen children’s phones during driving (O’Donnell). These discounts reflect the seriousness of the traffic situation and the need for the country to address the use of cell phones during driving at the federal level.

Those, who still support the use of cell phones during driving, say that there is no direct statistical correlation between the use of cell phones in motor vehicles in the process of their operation and fatality risks and, moreover, there is no statistical proof for the fact that cell phones are the prevalent cause of motor vehicle collisions in the country (Sugano 25). Those who favor the use of cell phones in cars also suggest that the number of cases, which report the use of cell phones as the cause of a traffic accident is too low to turn a cell phone into the major driver’s enemy (Lissy et al 22). Finally, the use of cell phones during driving is associated with numerous benefits, which hardly anyone can deny. These include an opportunity to prevent an unnecessary trip, to diminish the tendency to speed, to maintain the inner psychological balance and peace of mind, to facilitate privacy in communication, and even to expand business productivity (Lissy et al 43). All these benefits, however, are at least doubtful and are more dangerous that anyone can even expect, because neither productivity nor privacy can justify the risks of cell phone use in cars. The low number of official cases involving cell phones is easily explained by the drivers’ reluctance to report the use of the cell phone just before the accident. It is natural that drivers have a fear of being fined for inappropriate use of a handheld speaking device while driving. The benefits of cell phone use while driving increasingly questionable, because researchers neither were able to quantify their real value, nor did they have a chance to evaluate possible tradeoffs. For example, when it comes to privacy, cell phones become of the utmost importance, but given the risks of cell phone use during driving and the need for drivers to address emergency services, this privacy simply becomes irrelevant. Human life and human health are of the utmost importance for us, and cell phones seem to diminish their value. By using cell phones while driving, drivers subject themselves to considerable risks, and display their negligence toward others. As drivers, we carry responsibility for the wellbeing of those, who use our car; who sit next to us; and who have already chosen the same road, and for this reason, cellular phones should no longer be used while driving. Through the prism of negative effects which cell phone use produces on drivers and the level of distraction, which drivers experience while using cell phones in cars, federal legislation should put an official ban on using cell phones during driving. 

Conclusion

The use of cell phones in motor vehicles has always been the subject of the hot social debate. Proponents of cell phone use while driving are confident that cell phones contribute to their privacy, help them in business, improve their connectedness, and even save them from unnecessary trips. Unfortunately, the results of recent researches show cell phones as the sources of the major driving risks. Neither handheld phones nor hands-free devices can reduce the risks of injure, fatality, collision, or property damage on the road. The problem is in that the use of a cell phone during driving is associated with the distraction, which drivers experience when they have to balance and combine several different activities and tasks. Any conversation is always an emotional exchange, which reduces attentiveness and decreases the level of sensitivity to what is happening on the road. In light of this information, and given the danger which cell phones pose to drivers, federal authorities should put an official ban on using cell phones (either handheld or hands-free) during driving.

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