It often is said that technology is a two-edged sword. While it certainly is true that advances in technology bring many benefits, those benefits often find themselves subject to the law of unintended consequences.
The dramatic rise in cell phone use represents a clear example of how technology can have an adverse impact on our society.
According to a 2016 study published by Harvard Medical School researchers, an estimated 40,200 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2015, marking not only the highest number of traffic fatalities in nearly a decade, but also the sharpest rise — after years of decline — in more than five decades.
And the chief culprit implicated for the dramatic increase was cellphone use — more than a quarter of car accidents are caused by phone distraction, according to the National Safety Council (NSC).
According to a recent article in the New York Times,there is overwhelming evidence that even hands-free phone use is just as cognitively distracting as holding the phone. In some cases, such as when issuing voice commands, it may be even more distracting.
The article in the Times continues, “According to a University of Utah study, using a phone, whether hand-held or not, impairs driver performance as much as, or more than, drinking. And many safety advocates hope that distracted driving soon carries the same behavior-altering stigma.
“At least 32 countries across the globe have laws targeting hand-held phone use while driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In Portugal, all phone use while driving, including hands-free, is illegal. The U.K. has recently doubled the fines drivers may face for using a mobile device behind the wheel, and British lawmakers recently proposed life sentences for drivers who kill when using their phones.
And there is this eye-opening conclusion, “Taking your eyes off the road at 55 mph for the five seconds it takes to send or read a text is similar to driving the length of a football field with your eyes shut.”
All of us talk and drive these days and many (if not most) of us text while driving (even though the latter is now against the law in Massachusetts, even if stopped at a red light).
So, as our parochial school nuns might say, “A word to the wise is sufficient.”
We urge all of our readers to understand the dangers inherent in cellphone use while operating a motor vehicle and we encourage our readers to curtail, and even eliminate, what truly can be described as risky behavior.