This Thursday, the new Washington State law which makes using a hand-held cell phone a primary offense will go into affect. Under this law, driver’s will be cited a $124 ticket if they’re caught talking on their cell phones without an ear-piece or another hands-free device. Before this law came into effect, many law enforcement officers felt helpless against cracking down on distracted drivers unless they were caught making another offense such as speeding or running a red light.
One Professor of Psychology at the University of Utah isn’t so convinced that this law is going to make a difference. According to this article, Professor David Strayer claims that, “The crash risk of when you’re talking on a cell phone is about the same as if you were driving at a .08 blood alcohol level. And drivers who are texting are the same as someone who is close to blacking out.” However, he also says that, “There’s no safety advantage, whatsoever for using a hands free cell phone.”
Strayer goes on to state the the accident rates for people holding a phone versus using a hands-free device are exactly the same. As a personal injury lawyer in Seattle, I would like to see the statistics he’s basing his claims on. He believes that people who are talking on a phone are prey to “Inattention Blindness”, where even though they have their hands on the wheel and are gazing out the windshield, they’re not really paying attention to what’s going on. They can easily miss a child stepping out into the road or a light changing to red.
So according to this psychology professor, the best thing you can do is not talk on any phone and travel with a passenger who can also keep their eyes peeled on the road to keep you safe.