Phones and driving

By Chicago Sun-Times, The Journal,
Posted Dec. 26, 2011, at 6:32 p.m.

Cellphone conversations and driving just don’t mix.

And it does not matter whether you are talking on a hand-held cellphone or keeping both hands on the wheel and talking on a hand-free phone.

Either way, the experts say, you are almost sure to suffer “inattention blindness” and quadruple your chances of getting into an accident.

That’s the strong science behind a recommendation by the National Transportation Safety Board, which we support, that all states enact a complete ban on the use of cellphones by motorists. …

Far less appreciated is the danger of driving while talking on a hand-free device, such as a wireless headset. But, in fact, numerous studies have shown the danger is every bit as great as when talking on a hand-held phone. All cellphone conversations significantly reduce our awareness while driving, unlike a conversation with somebody sitting right there in the passenger seat.

In fact, that other person in the car, if an adult, actually acts as a helpful second driver, pointing out lights, pedestrians and signs, and naturally pausing in the conversation when the driving gets tight.

But driver distraction, topped by cellphone use, is now listed by the National Safety Council as one of the three leading causes of fatal car crashes, along with speeding and drinking. Auto crashes, in turn, are the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., with 32,708 last year.

Nine states have banned the use of hand-held phones while driving, and two countries — Germany and Portugal — have completely banned the use of cellphones while driving.

They’re ahead of the curve.

Chicago Sun-Times (Dec. 22)

A $50 million saving

Businesses understand that generating more of a product than customers want is a money-losing proposition.

That has never seemed to worry the government, which regularly ignores the law of supply and demand. After all, why worry about wasting taxpayers’ money?

President Barack Obama is seeking, on a small scale for Washington, to change that at the Treasury Department.

Bravo!

In 2005, Congress mandated the Treasury Department produce one-dollar coins featuring the likenesses of all U.S. presidents. The idea didn’t appeal to consumers, who use fewer than half the 70 million to 80 million coins produced each year. The rest are returned to the Treasury, where they are stored.

Obama is ordering nearly all production of the coins cease. Only as many as collectors want will be minted in the future.

That will save the government about $50 million a year in production and storage costs.

Congress should go the next step and simply cancel the wasteful program altogether.

The Journal, Martinsburg, Ky. (Dec. 22)

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/12/26/opinion/phones-and-driving/ printed on October 1, 2014