The recent federal and local attempt to reduce the number of drunken drivers on the road is a good idea but not the best idea to reduce accidents on the road. Researchers at the University of Utah, published in Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (2006), have indicated that 80 % of all accidents are caused by drivers being distracted and that people talking on cell-phones, hand-held or hands-free phones, are as dangerous as people driving drunk. "Use of hand-held and hands-free phones impaired driving comparably. They also impaired driving comparable to being drunk . . . [T]he cell-phone conversation itself, not just the manipulation of a phone, distracts drivers from the road. . .." It is time to address the issue of too many people driving while talking on their cell-phones, especially in the Virgin Islands with our narrow and winding roads and misdirected and glaring headlights.
To address this issue, some technological genius should develop a device that will not allow a cell-phone connection to continue to be emitted or transmitted when it is moved beyond ten yards in five seconds. It is doubtful than anyone walking or running will move that distance in that time period while talking on a cell-phone or that anyone will need to go more than 10 yards to gain privacy on his/her cell-phone. It also will eliminate people riding on bicycles from talking on cell-phones while pedaling. The device should keep the receiving cell-phone from receiving or making any connection while moving and switch the call to an automatic voice-mail. That would eliminate any need to pick up the phone while driving and still allow the receiver of a call to know who has called. It then should be required that all cell-phones must have the device installed before they are sold legally in the Virgin Islands or states. The VI could take the lead in curbing cell-phone abuse. When such a device is developed, cell-phone companies that choose not to have it installed should not be allowed to sell them legally and then be held negligently liable when an accident occurs because someone is distracted by talking on a cell-phone. (The latter is questionable as it falls into the same category as holding gun manufactures responsible for murders by people who purchase guns; but it's worth a try.)
The rationale for inventing and installing such a device in all cell-phones is because the police will neither have the time nor the staff to catch cell-phone violators and human nature is such that people will continue to violate our present law, as well as laws in the U.S., banning talking on cell phones while driving. In the Virgin Islands many people are consistently violating our cell-phone prohibition. Since humans have been driving vehicles for more than 100 years without the need to talk on cell-phones, there is no pressing need to have cell-phone conversations while driving. It is simply a personal convenience for the individual that poses, according to research, a significant danger to the public. While someone may argue that a person riding on the passenger side or in the back seat of a vehicle will not be accommodated, the fact is that a cell-phone conversation by others still distract drivers who are "curiously listening" to a one-sided conversation and trying to figure out what is being said on the other side. Talking on cell-phones also may be responsible for drunken drivers to have more accidents because they are doubly distracted. Since it is extremely difficult to change human nature, we will need to change cell-phone technology to counteract negative behavioral patterns of some humans.
Peace and love to all who want to have a safer driving environment.
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