One day this week we observed two young men on a motorcycle pulled off into a parking lot off Brady Street while the cycle’s driver talked on his cell phone.

Using a cell phone while riding a motorcycle is probably rather difficult. Too bad it’s not just as difficult while driving other vehicles.

A new study by researchers at the University of Utah, suggests that talking on cellphones while driving might be just as dangerous as drinking and driving. While we find the results of that study a little hard to believe, there is no doubt that any activity that takes a driver’s mind off driving is dangerous — especially at highway speeds.

Cell phone service providers declare that driving while applying makeup or while reading is riskier than driving while talking on a cellphone. To which we say, so what?

The odds are that if a policeman spots someone driving while applying makeup, or reading a book, the driver would be stopped and issued a ticket for reckless, or inattentive, driving. If not, the legislature needs to ram through a law banning those activities while driving.

But the fact that some people engage in other stupid, life-endangering behavior in no way reduces the danger cellphones pose when drivers are distracted because they are yakking when they should be braking. Or speeding up. Or making any of the countless, moment-to-moment decisions drivers need to make to safely negotiate traffic changes around them.

Cell phone users are easy to spot on the road. Alert drivers recognize delayed reactions or weaving as warning signs that they are sharing the road with an impaired — possibly drunken — driver. Making matters even worse, sometimes the yakkers have just left a bar somewhere and are doubly dangerous.

The yakkers will insist that they can drive just as well while talking as not, which is what a lot of drinking drivers also claim. Like the drinking driver, however, simple observation proves that they are fooling themselves and placing the rest of us in danger.

Whenever a new study finds a link between accidents and cellphone use, some representative of the cellular industry is sure to bring up all the other dangerous distractions drivers engage in on the road. Indeed, a study released earlier this year by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found eating, reading, applying makeup all to be hazardous. But the institute study found that cellphones were the most common distraction.

Cell phones pose a serious hazard, and some day after our legislators have successfully banned burning the flag and gay marriage, they will take a look at this hazard as well.



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