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Driving with a cell phone is a lot less dangerous than driving on prescription drugs

Saturday, May 28, 2005
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger
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There's a lot of debate today about the safety of using cell phones while driving. Statistics show that those who use cell phones while driving cause a much greater percentage of accidents than those who avoid using their cell phones. And the studies have shown that it's not just the physical coordination required to punch numbers into the cell phone while you're trying to work the vehicle that causes accidents; it's actually the lack of attention resulting from driving and talking on the cell phone at the same time. It seems that when you're distracted, you're more likely to cause accidents.

In terms of public safety, it's probably correct to say that banning cell phones would reduce the number of traffic accidents. But I think, more accurately, it depends on the person. Some people are operating on, shall we say, lower power CPUs in their heads to begin with. They might be zoned out on prescription drugs, and when you add a cell phone to the equation, they do become a danger to the other drivers on the road. But there are individuals who are perfectly capable of talking on the cell phone or operating other non-visual electronic devices while they are driving. For example, I'm recording this article while I'm driving, and I have a perfect driving record.

I think the real test of driver safety should be determined by the reaction time of individuals, not simply noting whether they using a cell phone or other portable electronic device. Some people need to be taken off of the roads just the way they are, even without any distractions, because they have about a two-second reaction time. Those people are a danger to other drivers, regardless of what electronics they might be using. And of course, when they pick up a cell phone, their reaction time might double to four seconds, and then they're more than likely going to hit somebody.

So if we're going to go through the trouble of banning mobile phones in automobiles out of concern for driver safety, I think we should go all the way and just ban drivers with low cognitive function and slow reaction time. Why isn't reaction time one of the tests when you go get your license renewed? When someone sees a red light, shouldn't they be required to respond in one second or less? Isn't someone who takes longer than one second to respond to a red light and apply pressure to the brake pedal a danger to other drivers, and aren't slow people in fact far more dangerous than drivers who carry cell phones? I think they are. I mean, if we're going to get serious about driver safety and ban cell phones, we should ban anyone who's taking a great number of prescription drugs from driving.

I was talking with a traffic control officer here recently who said that as many as 30 to 35 percent of all traffic accidents are caused by people who are dosed up on prescription drugs. Another third or so are caused by people on alcohol or illegal drugs. So prescription drugs are causing just as many accidents as people doped up on cocaine, marijuana and alcohol. And occasionally there are really bad drivers -- people who are taking antidepressant drugs, smoking pot, drinking beer and trying to talk on a cell phone to hook up their next drug deal. They're an accident waiting to happen. But fortunately, that's not what you will normally see on the street.

So should cell phones be banned from the hands of drivers? Should we outlaw the use of portable electronic devices by people who are operating automobiles? I would only support that if we also ban drivers with slow reaction times and actually start testing people for reaction times. It's easy to blame the problem on cell phones, but that's sort of like going to Rwanda, finding out that 800,000 people have been slaughtered by machetes, and then blaming the machetes. It's not a machete problem, and it's not a cell phone problem. It's a problem with reaction times of drivers, and in the case of Rwandans, human decency. I say, stop blaming the electronics, and start holding drivers accountable for their mental states.

And in terms of real dangers to public safety, cell phones don't even come close to the dangers posed by prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs. Approximately 40% of all drivers are on at least one drug at all times, and if you include nicotine and caffeine, that number goes up to around 70%. The abuse of drugs is the root cause of the vast majority of automobile accidents.

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About the author: Mike Adams is a consumer health advocate and award-winning journalist with a passion for teaching people how to improve their health He has authored and published thousands of articles, interviews, consumers guides, and books on topics like health and the environment, and he has created several downloadable courses on survival and preparedness, including his widely-downloaded course on personal safety and self-defense. Adams is an independent journalist with strong ethics who does not get paid to write articles about any product or company. In 2010, Adams launched TV.NaturalNews.com, a natural health video site featuring videos on holistic health and green living. He also launched an online retailer of environmentally-friendly products (BetterLifeGoods.com) and uses a portion of its profits to help fund non-profit endeavors. He's also a successful software entrepreneur, having founded a well known email marketing software company whose technology currently powers the NaturalNews email newsletters. Adams volunteers his time to serve as the executive director of the Consumer Wellness Center, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and regularly pursues cycling, nature photography, Capoeira and Pilates. He's also author of numerous health books published by Truth Publishing and is the creator of several consumer-oriented grassroots campaigns, including the Spam. Don't Buy It! campaign, and the free downloadable Honest Food Guide. He also created the free reference sites HerbReference.com and HealingFoodReference.com. Adams believes in free speech, free access to nutritional supplements and the ending of corporate control over medicines, genes and seeds. Known on the 'net as 'the Health Ranger,' Adams shares his ethics, mission statements and personal health statistics at www.HealthRanger.org

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