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Reduce Distractions From Cell Phones
MISSISSIPPI STATE --The tool that made the automobile an extension of the home and office is being threatened as several states consider laws limiting the use of cellular phones for safety reasons.
Some communities have banned the phones from vehicles entirely, while others have required the use of hands-free devices for the phones. Mississippi currently has no laws governing the use of cell phones in vehicles.
Today, cell phones join a host of other gadgets as driver distractions in automobiles. Long-time distractions include the radio, CD players, passengers, food and drinks, reading and that pair of sunglasses that slipped just on the other side of the seat.
Herb Willcutt, agricultural engineer with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said vehicles travel 88 feet a second at 60 mph and 110 feet per second at 75 mph.
"When you're traveling at 65 mph, anything that distracts your attention away from your driving slows your reaction time or causes you not to react at all, and it slows your braking time," Willcutt said. "A distraction of one or two seconds traveling that speed can mean the difference between a fatal collision and no collision at all.
While Willcutt didn't single cell phones out as especially dangerous, he said they do present unique distractions. Dialing a phone requires attention to the keypad, not the road, and conversations can involve more of the driver's attention than is safe.
"The best solution is still to find a safe place to pull off the road and make your calls," Willcutt said. "Take a five- or 10-minute break from driving, and that way you're not endangering yourself or the other drivers on the road."
The National Safety Council offered some tips online for using a car phone safely. It recommends buying phones based on their ease of operation and that include hands-free speaker phone options. Install the microphone in the sun visor directly above the driver's line of vision.
"The handset should be placed for the driver's maximum comfort and convenience by being easily accessible and allowing the driver to sit and drive normally," the Council states. "Remember that safe driving is the priority."
Other tips include assessing the traffic situation before making or accepting calls, store frequently called numbers in the phone's memory and use the phone's voice mail feature rather than try to take notes while driving.
"Since users generally drive slower and drift within their lane, a motorist on the phone should drive in the slow traffic lane in case he or she decides to pull over to complete the call," the safety council recommends.