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Hold the phone: But not while driving

OK, class. If you talked, text-messaged, checked your e-mail or played games on your cellphone on the way to work this morning, raise your hand.

OK, class. If you talked, text-messaged, checked your e-mail or played games on your cellphone on the way to work this morning, raise your hand.

You in the back … on your cell … pay attention!

So, if we’re being honest — and we are — we did some or all of that. And now the National Safety Council (NSC) in the U.S. says working your cellphone while driving is dangerous and foolhardy and wants us all to stop.
Did you know:

• An estimated 100 million people use their cellphone while they drive? Based on my drive to work this morning, I can only speculate that all 100 million are in Vancouver.

• That cellphone use contributes to six per cent of all crashes (the NSC refuses to call them “accidents”), which translates into 636,000 crashes, 330,000 injuries, 12,000 serious injuries, 2,600 deaths and $43 billion in costs?

That’s right: 2,600 deaths and 330,000 injuries. Hold the phone!

The NSC offers another hair-raising stat: 80 per cent of crashes are due to driver inattention. And driver inattention is a way of life these days. A well-equipped car comes with the following distractions: AM/FM/satellite radio, GPS monitor, TV, DVD player, Wi-Fi equipped computer monitor, multi-channel MP3/CD music device, makeup mirror, cup holder and bum warmer. Did I miss anything?

And while you’re putting on your makeup, texting your BFF, fiddling with the FM tuner, checking the GPS, changing CDs, selecting tunes on your iPod, checking out YouTube and eating breakfast, lunch or dinner, you’re turning left or changing lanes at 120 kilometres per hour.

It’s a wonder any of us get to work at all.

I’m not exactly sure when it became acceptable to do just about anything in a car — other than drive, that is — but the level of ADD in traffic these days is breathtaking. The NSC is particularly disturbed by cellphone use because you add another variable beyond your control — the dude on the other end of the line does not know about that kid chasing his puppy, darting out into the street in front of you.

B.C.’s Transport Minister Kevin Falcon has so far resisted the idea of banning cellphones while driving, although bans are already in place in Newfoundland and Lab­rador, Nova Scotia and Quebec; Ontario is in the process of banning cellphones and other electronic activities such as iPod fiddling and playing games.

Admit it. You know the above activities are, at best, a bad idea and, at worst, fatal. But I suspect you’re not going to stop unless groups such as the NSC finally manage to convince authorities to make interacting with these devices illegal while driving.

I guess that means I won’t be able to write this column on my BlackBerry, either. ’Scuse me, I just spotted an open parking meter … I’ll just make this U-turn and get right back to you.

 
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