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Monday, January 12, 2009

Yes, Cell Phones Are a Clear and Present Danger

I've said since the late 1990s when I first started looking in to the cell phone issue and its relation to health, that talking and driving did not mix. I even had - and still do - have Click and Clack's "Hang Up and Drive" sticker in the back window of my vehicle.

I shudder every time I see a driver with their phone held up to their ear when I am on the road. And mind you, my state does ban cell phone use except as hands free.

The problem with this is that even hands-free is a danger because of the EMF circulating around in your vehicle while you drive. EMF negatively impacts reaction time and sound decision making, at a time when the roads are much more dangerous than they used to be.

Now take the attitude of Bad Brain and Bad Paul. A couple of fellows that decided they could pull off a fraud and skip out on paying my non-profit a large sum of money they owed us, but liked to poke fun at my stand on cell phones, cell towers, DTV towers and WIFI.

I guess in the end the precautionary principle will win out.

Maybe as the great computer tech IBM sent out the other day to repair my computer said, "Perhaps it is time we all got out our tin foil hats".
Safety council wants total ban on cell phones while driving
From King5 News, Seattle, on January 11, 2009 via Associated Press

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A national safety group is advocating a total ban on cell phone use while driving, saying the practice is clearly dangerous and leads to fatalities.

States should ban drivers from using hand-held and hands-free cell phones, and businesses should prohibit employees from using cell phones while driving on the job, the congressionally chartered National Safety Council says, taking those positions for the first time.

The group's president and chief executive, Janet Froetscher, likened talking on cell phones to drunken driving, saying cell phone use increases the risk of a crash fourfold.

"When our friends have been drinking, we take the car keys away. It's time to take the cell phone away," Froetscher said in interview.

No state currently bans all cell phone use while driving. Six states -- California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Utah and Washington -- and the District of Columbia ban the use of hand-held cell phones behind the wheel, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Also, 17 states and the district restrict or ban cell phone use by novice drivers.

Council officials acknowledged a total ban could take years.

"Public awareness and the laws haven't caught up with what the scientists are telling us," Froetscher said. "There is no dispute that driving while talking on your cell phone, or texting while driving, is dangerous."

Froetscher said the council examined more than 50 scientific studies before reaching its decision. One was a study by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis that estimates 6 percent of vehicle crashes, causing about 2,600 deaths and 12,000 serious injuries a year, are attributable to cell phone use. Hands-free cell phones are just as risky as hand held phones, she added.

"It's not just what you're doing with your hands -- it's that your head is in the conversation and so your eyes are not on the road," Froetscher said.

John Walls, vice president of CTIA-The Wireless Association, a cell phone trade group, objected to a complete ban. He said there are many instances where the ability to make a phone call while driving helps protect safety.

"We think that you can sensibly and safely use a cell phone to make a brief call," Walls said.

What makes cell phone use distinct from other risky driving behaviors, Froetscher said, is the magnitude -- there are 270 million cell phone users in the U.S. and 80 percent of them talk on the phone while driving.

Froetscher said the council is the first major national safety group to call for a total cell phone ban for drivers. The National Transportation Safety Board has been urging states since 2003 to ban the use of cell phones or any wireless device by inexperienced drivers who have learner's permits or intermediate licenses. Last year, at least 23 states considered some form of legislation to restrict the use of cell phones or wireless devices, according to the board.

Council officials said they will press Congress to address the issue when it takes up a highway construction bill this year, possibly by offering incentives to states that enact cell phone laws.

The Governors Highway Safety Association agreed that cell phone use while driving is dangerous, but said it would be difficult to enforce a ban. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which is funded by auto insurers, said banning all cell phone use "makes sense based on the research," but agreed that enforcement will be difficult.

October 2008: hot topics
and from 1997
Cell Phones: As dangerous as driving drunk
Report: Using Car Phones Is as Dangerous as Driving Drunk

Related: Hand-free phones just as risky as handheld
February 13, 1997
©Reuters Ltd. All rights reserved ©FOX News Network 1997. All rights reserved.

BOSTON -- The risk of having a traffic accident while using a cellular phone is the same as that while driving drunk, according to a study appearing in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine. University of Toronto researchers found cell phone users four to five times more likely to get into traffic accidents than those who do not use them. "Telephones that allowed the hands to be free did not appear to be safer than hand-held telephones," they said. "This may indicate that the main factor in most motor vehicle collisions is a driver's limitations in attention rather than dexterity." An editorial by Malcolm Maclure of the Harvard School of Public Health and Murray Mittleman of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston said the research was the first "direct evidence that the use of cellular telephones in cars contributes to roadway collisions."

The Toronto study by Dr. Donald Redelmeier and Robert Tibshirani said the risk "is similar to the hazard associated with driving with a blood alcohol level at the legal limit."

A definitive study with people randomly assigned cellular phones so their accident rates could be checked was unlikely because it would be difficult and possibly unethical. Representatives of the cellular phone industry were quick to cite what they said were the study's shortcomings. The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, a trade group, said in a statement that the study dealt with an association between accidents and the phones. The researchers did not directly assess whether the phones caused accidents. The association also said cell phone use was way up and traffic injuries were down, showing users drive safely.

Nonetheless, the findings were likely to reverberate through the cell phone and insurance industries, and among drivers and government regulators as well. About 35 million Americans have cell phones. Brazil, Israel and Australia have banned the use of cellular telephones while driving and the new finding may spark similar moves, even though the researchers stressed that there are benefits to the phones, such as the ability of drivers to make emergency calls quickly.

Driver error was responsible for more than 90 percent of motor vehicle collisions, which were the top cause of death among children and young adults, the researchers said.

Redelmeier and Tibshirani used 13 months of accident data and phone billing records of 699 volunteers to pinpoint the time of the accident and determine when a cell phone customer was last using the phone. They also made some statistical adjustments to account for the intermittence of driving.

Among their findings:

-- The risk of an accident was nearly five times higher than normal when a person was on the telephone one minute or five minutes before the accident. The typical call in the study lasted nearly 2 1/2 minutes.

-- The collision rate was four times higher than expected when the call was made less than 15 minutes before the accident.

-- Only after the driver had been off the phone for more than 15 minutes did the risk seem to dissipate.

-- Younger and older drivers with a cell phone faced essentially the same risk.

-- "Subjects with many years of experience in using a cellular telephone still had a significant increase in risk," but the highest risk was among people who had not graduated from high school.

Related: Hand-free phones just as risky as handheld


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