A recent study at the University of Utah estimates that drivers using mobile phones (even with hands-free headsets) are impaired as much as drivers who are legally drunk. The National Safety Council has started a campaign to ban all use of mobile phones for drivers. It's hard to imagine the impact on teenagers and salesmen (ha-ha).
However, talking on a cellphone while driving is something 80% of cellphone users say they do--that's roughly 100 million subscribers. People find it convenient--they conduct business, check in with family members...it's practically become a full-blown American Way of Life. What will we do if we can't chat on the phone any longer while we drive?
Americans are notorious for risk-taking behaviors (cigarette-smoking, drinking and driving, full sugar soda, having loaded guns around the house) but just try and suggest to us that we might want to change a behavior or limit it and everyone gets up in arms. If you don't believe me, just reference the recent dust-up here in New York concerning Governor Patterson's suggestion that we put an obesity tax on soda. Here's an article about it from the NY Daily News--note the YouTube video at the bottom of the article where the State Health Commissioner uses 6 pounds of yellow goo to make his point.
Why do we do what we know isn't good for us?
The reasons why fall into two main categories.The first is that we just don't know how harmful these things are for us--although in today's world that's hard to believe.
The second is that we incorrectly weigh the pros and cons involved. Let's look at how this could happen. When you are growing up in America, you will be exposed to competing messages about, for example, alcohol. The ads say it's fun, your friends tell you it's cool--culturally our country feeds us messages about the benefits of alcohol at the same time that we receive a stream of information about the unhealthy effects and dangers. In addition, human beings are not always great at putting off the short-term benefits for long-term gain.
So, how can we combat our "bad habits" when our very natures are telling us to dial those phones when we are behind the wheel? Do you think the National Safety Council will be successful in their cellphone efforts as they were with increasing seat belt usage?