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How Cellphones Kill

San Francisco recently passed a law requiring disclosure to consumers of the amount of radiation emitted by cellphones at the point of sale. Research has been inconclusive on whether there is a link between cellphone usage and cancer. More definitive findings could be years away.

Understandably the law addresses a universal concern that we all have. We are more fearful of threats we can’t see, smell, hear, taste, or touch. Radon, carbon monoxide, and radiation fit these criteria.

Yet, cellphones kill in other ways which are far more immediate, equally as subtle, and just as concerning. This silent epidemic is increasing at an alarming rate. Everyone sees it, but does nothing about it.

Cellphones and driving don’t mix. Cellphones and walking probably isn’t a good idea either.

When talking on a cellphone or even a telephone, the user is completely engaged, hooked, and oblivious to any other information or sensory input. Although as a nation we pride ourselves on our productivity, our technology, our lack of sleep, and our ability to multitask, the truth is no one can multitask even though we think we can. Walk up to someone talking on the phone and ask them a question. What do they do? Typically he gestures you to hold on to your question with a raised hand as he focuses on the telephone conversation.

If he can’t talk to you at the same time while standing still, then is it safe talking on the cellphone and driving or even crossing the street? Not surprisingly the answer is “no.”

A report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 6 in 10 adults talked on cellphones while driving, nearly half of adults were riding in a car when the driver was either talking on the cellphone or text messaging, and 44 percent felt unsafe when riding in the car. Aside from driving, 1 in 6 adults actually bumped into something or someone when talking or texting on a cellphone.

It is clear from the study that more people are putting their lives and yours at risk. Although I rarely use my cellphone, I’m not immune from this epidemic.

Just the other day when driving my daughter to her reading class as I was making a left turn from the designated turn lane, a bright yellow pickup truck at a high rate of speed ran the red light which had been up for a couple of seconds.

Fortunately, I had stopped before entering the intersection and slammed on my horn to alert the driver of the near miss. She was on her cellphone. Fully engaged. Completely oblivious to what could have happened. No flicker of acknowledgement that she even heard my car horn.

In other words, it is very likely my small sedan would have been unable to withstand a head-on or side-impact collision from a pickup truck. I shutter to think what might have happened that Sunday morning on Father Day’s.

Had police officers responded to the accident scene, the driver invariably would have said: “I don’t remember seeing a red light. I don’t remember seeing a car in the intersection.” The irony is that she would have been completely right. She would have walked away unharmed, very likely clueless that her simple act of talking killed two people, free to repeat the behavior again.

Do yourself a favor and make sure you are not someone who is a dangerous driver. Make your car a cellphone free zone. Turn it off before entering the vehicle. If you must take a call, then pull off the lane like you would when allowing fire trucks and ambulances the right of way. Even more importantly be very alert for distracted drivers on cellphones. Sixty percent of drivers may be in this group and unfortunately the number will only increase. Hands-free devices make no difference in improving safety. The brain and user is fully hooked to the conversation and unable to see beyond the call.

Look both ways before crossing the street when walking or driving into an intersection. Boring, basic, and even more necessary.

As for me, I think I might be able to find a Hummer for cheap.

*This blog post was originally published at Saving Money and Surviving the Healthcare Crisis*

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