Latest data show that talking on a cell phone, even with both hands on the wheel, is a dangerous activity.
"Engaging in a phone conversation on a mobile device while driving distracts the brain and delays reaction times, experts said. Drivers are more likely to swerve between lanes, slow down and miss important signs," says this CNN story summarizing recent driving-while-talking studies. And no, it's not the same as chatting with the person next to you. From the same report:
" 'It doesn't matter what kind of cell phone device they are using, because the impairments are so large,' said University of Utah professor David Strayer, who used a high-tech driving simulator for his experiment.
"Strayer's study, published in December, concluded that conversations with a front-seat passenger can actually mitigate accidents, because the passenger can help observe road conditions and warn the driver of possible hazards."
Maybe you don't mean it, but if you talk on the phone while driving, you're showing contempt for the safety and well-being of those on the road around you. Studies are clear that reaction time is slower for a driver yakking on a phone. Not just for other people. Yes, even for you. And when you're piloting a 1,000+ lb vehicle at 55+ mph, just a slight delay in reaction time can be deadly.
"Phone driving is the drunken driving of the new millennium," wrote Dan Carney in the Washington Post piece, What Call is Worth a Life? "Seemingly everyone does it, and all of them seem to believe that they are skilled in a way that prevents their powers of perception from being clouded by the fog of isolation that envelops drivers who talk on the phone."
That was four years ago, and the problem has only gotten worse. "One study from the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis estimated that 636,000 traffic accidents each year -- about 6 percent of all accidents -- are caused by drivers using their cell phones, resulting in an estimated 2,600 deaths," notes CNN.
It's time to ban drivers from talking on cell phones. Period.