Gerber Life Family Times --- News and tips for familes of all ages and stages of life

"Just let me get thatů"  
Practicing cell phone safety while on the road.


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"Just let me get thatů"
Practicing cell phone safety while on the road.

Gerber Life Family Times Archive

ImageHow quickly times change. Today, little time passes that the air isn't filled with the sounds of someone's cell phone announcing an incoming call. For some, the traditional "ring" of the old corded telephone hangs around as a ringtone while others opt for a musical announcement in their favorite style—be it rock, rap, or country. The Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) states that over 255 million Americans or approximately 83 percent of the population now has cell phone service. The little devices have become so prevalent and such a way of life that a growing number of families are beginning to abandon their traditional landline telephone—opting for complete reliance on digital communication.

For anyone under twenty, it's difficult to remember a time when a cell phone wasn't available. The days of our parents and grandparents having a "party-line" and a corded phone (of all things) are long gone. Now, more than ever, families are constantly on the move. With both parents working or holding multiple jobs and the kids involved in more activities than ever before, families have grown to rely on the cell phone as a fundamental means of keeping track of members and communicating daily plans and schedules.

All you have to do is stop and look around you to understand the full impact of cell phone technology. From the supermarket and Little League game to the line at the bank and office cubicle next to yours, it's almost impossible to avoid their presence.

With much of our time spent in our cars, moving from one aspect of our life to another, it's only natural that the cell phone would pop up there as well. With traffic, rushed schedules, and multi-tasking, the added distraction of a cell phone raises safety concerns for many, and an increasing number of states are enacting laws to address the situation (i.e., California's recently enacted cell phone law prohibiting the use of hand-held phones while driving). According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Utah, Washington, and Washington, D.C. have similar "hands-free" laws in effect and researchers have concluded that the ban will reduce traffic deaths by about 300 per year. In 2007, the state of Washington became the first state to ban "texting" with a cell phone while driving and New Jersey followed with a similar law that took effect March 1, 2008. According to the National Safety Commission, New Jersey alone had 3,580 phone-related crashes in 2006 and almost half of those involved a hands-free device. The Insurance Information Institute also adds that thus far seventeen states have passed laws banning or restricting young drivers from using cell phones.

ImageWith more and more states setting restrictions on how a cell phone can be used while in a car, it becomes important for cell phone owners to know the legalities in their own state. If cell phone use while driving is still legal, there are safety tips to help assure calls are made without unnecessarily endangering yourself, the occupants of your car, or the drivers who share the road with you. The American Automobile Association's (AAA) first tip to cell phone users is: Don't use a cell phone while driving. The AAA goes on to add that if you must use a cell phone while driving, use the following precautions:

  • Let the person you are speaking with know you are driving.
  • Use the cell phone only when absolutely necessary. Save casual conversations for times when you are not trying to safely operate a motor vehicle.
  • Plan conversations in advance and keep them short—especially when driving in hazardous conditions such as heavy traffic or bad weather.
  • Use your phone's message-taking capabilities while you are driving and return calls when you are stopped or after you have arrived at your destination.
  • Ask a passenger in the car to make or answer the call for you and to speak on your behalf.
  • Know the features of your phone and familiarize yourself with its operation before you attempt using your cell phone while driving.
  • Do not have emotional conversations while trying to drive. Pull off the road in a safe spot before continuing such conversations.
  • Do not undertake other distracting activities such as eating or tending to a child while driving and using your cell phone.
  • Make sure your phone is in a secure location in the car to keep it from becoming a projectile in the event of a crash.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, no state has yet completely banned all types of cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) for drivers. Those who need to make the occasional cell phone call while driving can take advantage of today's wireless technology for hands-free cell phone use. Many new vehicles produced today have this wireless technology either standard or available as an option. In high-end models, voice-recognition completely eliminates the need to physically dial or hold the phone. Other car models have satellite services for emergencies and navigation instructions available for monthly subscription fee that use the car's built in phone to place calls. The more cost-effective choice for many cell phone users is the use of "ear-buds" or over-the-ear headsets that eliminate the need to hold the cell phone while driving.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that the most common distraction for drivers is the use of cell phones. NHTSA adds that the cell phone usage rate in 2006 translated into 745,000 vehicles on the road at any given daylight moment being driven by someone engaged in a conversation on a hand-held cell phone. Given the widespread use and convenience of cell phones, your own actions are only part of the potential danger. By practicing defensive driving techniques and continually scanning the road to monitor what drivers are doing around you, you will be better able to react quickly if a cell phone user's driving abilities and reaction times become impacted.

Cell phones have brought a wonderful new convenience and freedom to the daily life of almost every family. Parents can keep track of their children and families can communicate quickly in the event of an emergency. Keep yourself and those around you safe while making or taking cell phone calls in your car. Be aware of your state's particular laws and follow safety precautions each and every time you hear that familiar ring.

United States Census Bureau—
International Association for the Wireless Telecommunications Industry—
California Department of Motor Vehicles—
American Automobile Association—
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration—
National Safety Commission—
Governors Highway Safety Association—

Articles are provided for the general interest of our readers. Gerber Life Insurance is not responsible for any content and recommends that you consult the appropriate professional with any questions or concerns you may have concerning any financial or health related issues.

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