There have always been debates about what constitutes distraction or different levels of distraction whilst driving a car, ranging from listening to the radio, having rows with kids to generally having a lack of awareness or understanding of road sense as to what is going on around you.
Cellphones and the use of cellphones whilst driving have taken this debate to a new level. It is simply not an academic debate any more since the use of cellphones both for making and receiving calls and for sending and receiving text messages or SMS messages has become widespread in most countries in the world.
Cellphones have come a long way since the first one appeared in the James Bond film from Russia with Love, and are now considered a routine part of most people’s drivers experience. Car manufacturers are increasingly building and integrating cell phone capabilities into the vehicles themselves, either by way of Bluetooth technology or other sorts of technological adaptations of cellphones.
When cellphones first became widespread they were often known as car phone’s, because that was where they were mostly used. Because of the size of the car phone it meant that most people would only use them when the car was stationary and would consciously make an effort to pull over or stop in a safe place before answering all receiving calls. At cellphones have changed in size and capability to reverse became true. More people began to find it easy and often necessary to make or receive calls during the course of a journey and subsequently do not think of it as being risky or distracting behaviour.
After a while governments began to realise both the normalisation of using a cellphone whilst driving, and the inherent dangers and risks associated with such. Many states and governments introduced laws that made holding a cellphone whilst making or receiving a call a criminal offence. The use of Bluetooth technology and other types technology allowed drivers to make and receive what are known as hands-free calls which were deemed to be safer and less distracting and physically having to hold a cellphone handset in the hand whilst driving.
That belief that hands-free driving is safer may or may not be true. The reality is that in most places it is legal but has almost been superseded by a bigger problem, that of sending and receiving text messages or SMS messages. This is a widespread and incredibly dangerous practice, not least because it involves the use of one or both hands whilst driving, but it also requires the driver to look at the screen of the cellphone whilst sending or receiving text messages rather than looking at the road around them to see what is going on.
The United States government has done research that shows that the use of a cellphone whilst driving can effectively be as distracting or have a similar effect to that of the driver being intoxicated was driving. It is an incredibly serious issue and one which most legislators have in reality given lip service to. The enormity of what it means in terms of potential fatalities or accidents is huge. In terms of car safety the any real safe use of a cellphone is when the car is stationary and effectively off-road so the driver does not have to concentrate on what is going on around them at the same time. In terms of car insurance there are a number of scenarios where the driver of the car, if involved in a fatality or accident that occurred whilst they were using a cellphone improperly, could have their car insurance compromised.