Now that the holidays are over, and the Consumer Electronics Show and Macworld expo are nigh, my mind turns to...cell phones in the car.
A new study from the University of Utah finds that motorists drive about two miles per hour more slowly than drivers who refrain from cell phoning. The use of hands-free devices are just as likely to slow drivers down, compared to hands-on cell phone use, the study says.
So what, you ask? Consider this: The university's research suggests that "slower cellphone drivers may be increasing overall commuting times by 5 percent to 10 percent," according to The New York Times in its report of the study's findings. Thus, talking on the phone "may increase each daily commuter's travel time by 20 hours a year," says the Times. The reason: Cell phone talkers tend to be distracted, which causes them to drive more slowly and to have slower reactions.
I work out of my home office, so I'm not greatly affected by the cell phone slowdown. Still, in San Francisco (where I live), I see evidence of this trend constantly. For example, when I encounter drivers who appear to be snoozing at green stoplights or who fail to use their blinkers when turning, those drivers are, invariably, talking on their cell phones. Their distractedness has caused them, and me, to slow down unnecessarily.
Even more concerning, in my opinion, are cell-phone-using pedestrians. I'm truly shocked at how many people I see in San Francisco, pushing their baby buggies into congested intersections without first glancing in both directions. I suppose these pedestrians are focusing on something far more important than their children's safety, such as a discussion with their spouses of whose turn it is to make dinner.
Pedestrians have the right of way, of course. But that's the ideal world. In the real world, we have drivers who are distracted on their cell phones. We have entitled pedestrians not paying attention to those drivers. It's a potentially disastrous combination.
I must admit to driving while cell phoning, too. But it's a New Year, and refraining from unnecessary cell phone use while driving is at the top of my resolutions. At a minimum, I'll get where I'm going just a little bit faster.