Like It or Not: Distracted Driving

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Opinion piece by Lyle V. Harris

A bill in the State Senate would require all of us to put our phones down and use hands-free devices while driving and talking on Georgia's highways.

Some think it’s a good idea. Too many drivers are so busy blabbing or texting that they’re not paying attention to the road.

Not you, of course.

It’s already illegal to use your phone for texting, surfing or anything other than phone calls while driving on the highway. But distracted driving is still a deadly problem, killing 538 people in Georgia last year, including people distracted by cellphones.

I applaud a legislative committee for studying the issue closely. But the bill is flawed. There’s no strong evidence that hands-free devices make driving safer.

The problem isn’t the hardware in our cars. It’s the software in our heads. Our brains are pre-wired to focus on someone talking even when we’re performing complicated tasks, like driving a car.

In fact, hands-free devices often make the situation worse by giving motorists a false sense of security. If hands-free devices aren’t the answer, then what is?

Let’s start with personal responsibility. Most service providers offer a “do not disturb” function to voluntarily block cell phone calls while driving—except in emergencies.

At the same time, public officials must do their part by:

  • Increasing public awareness about distracted driving
  • Raising fines
  • Stepping up police enforcement

We know this strategy works. It’s the reason seatbelt usage is at an all-time high. The same playbook can help curb distracted driving.

If you care about dangerous cell phone use, contact Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle by phone at (404) 656-5030, Facebook or Twitter, and Governor Nathan Deal by phone at (404) 656-1776, Facebook or Twitter. Tell them hands-free devices for motorists won’t make our highways any safer. Instead, Georgia must focus on better education, regulation and law enforcement. 

DISCLAIMER: This segment represents the views of the commentator and not necessarily those of FOX 5 Atlanta.