Sunday, December 18, 2011
Reframing the Debate Over Using Phones Behind the Wheel
December 17, 2011
For years, policy makers trying to curb distracted driving have compared the problem to drunken driving. The analogy seemed fitting, with drivers weaving down roads and rationalizing behavior that they knew could be deadly.
But on Tuesday, in an emotional call for states to ban all phone use by drivers, the head of a federal agency introduced a new comparison: distracted driving is like smoking.
The shift in language, in comments by Deborah Hersman, the chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, opened a new front in a continuing national conversation about a deadly habit that safety advocates are trying desperately, and with a growing sense of futility, to stop.
Her new tack also echoes a growing consensus among scientists that using phones and computers can be compulsive, both emotionally and physically, which helps explain why drivers may have trouble turning off their devices even if they want to. In effect, they are saying that the running joke about BlackBerrys as “CrackBerrys” is more serious than people think.
“Addiction to these devices is a very good way to think about it,” Ms. Hersman said in an interview. “It’s not unlike smoking. We have to get to a place where it’s not in vogue anymore, where people recognize it’s harmful and there’s a risk and it’s not worth it.”
She added: “If you can’t control your impulses, you need to lock your phone in the trunk.”
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Posted by Yulie Foka at 8:19 AM