Scientific Dangers Of Wireless Cell Phones And Driving

Wireless Cell Phones, Wireless Danger

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The drive-safe Ontario cell phone legislation ban has been effective for exactly a month now making mobile cell talk illegal in Toronto.. but are Torontonians listening?

The new ‘distracted driving law’ (eyes on the road and hands on the wheel – bill 118) makes it law for drivers not to use certain digital wireless systems unless they have safely pulled over. The law has varying definitions from province to province and state to state but the main point being made here is very specific: Toronto citizens are not to use any sort of hand held electronic communication devices while driving, in a traffic jam and even while stopped at a red light (iPod, blackberrys, portable dvds, mp3 players, laptops, handheld games, devices for emailing and texting inclusive) or face the penalties that cost $500. Exempt are hands free devices and dash-mounted global positioning systems (GPS), however, if a driver is using a hands free device ‘while putting others at risk’ it can cost up to a $1000 fine, 6 demerit points, license suspension and possible jail.

A Canadian based technology in Vancouver has recently developed a way to block wireless signals inside a moving vehicle. The company that developed the technology to block wireless signals claims in its advertising that it was designed primarily to minimize preventable accidents from driver distraction. However, earlier this year the World Health Organization (WHO) had recommended to radiation advisory authorities to find ways to minimize exposure to users before year end therefore this new in-vehicle technological tool can also be banking on the progressive change to deter addicted cell phone users from being compelled to use their electronic communication devices while driving as a means to prevent accidents but to also lower radiation exposure for drivers and passengers that are confined in a small space, that being the vehicle cabin.

The health concerns over mobile phones comes from how the phones operate: cellular technology functions in the microwave range using electromagnetic radiation; some scientific research stipulates that this may be harmful to the human brain and human health in general, with technology around us working in a similar way the effects become cumulative, the exposure excessive. These concerns have increased with the enormous growth in wireless device usage the past couple of years as wireless mobile telephony alone has over 2 billion users world wide.

With the long term health risks aside, the even more immediate danger of cellular technology is surfacing in driver distraction as safety statistics reported many deaths from texting and cell talking while driving. In human brain psychological experiments, studies have shown that speaking and ‘planning to speak’ can deplete the brain’s resources more than listening. Measurements of the attention span levels demonstrated that subjects were more likely to be distracted while preparing to speak than when listening to speech at a ratio of 4:1 (thus drivers four times more likely distracted while talking than every time one listened). Even though an in-vehicle conversational passenger or the car radio may audibly distract the driver, transportation test simulations found that drivers carrying out a conversation on a cell phone were more likely to overlook traffic and road signs. It is believed that an in-vehicle conversation(s) can be in alignment with the driving conditions whereas cell talk can be more distracting with perhaps the underlined emotional response(s) to an outside issue that may displace the driver’s thinking further from the task at hand hence adding to the distraction factor.

In safety studies and accident statistics text messaging had the greatest relative risk since texting entices the driver to glance away from the road (forcing the eyes to refocus adds to the danger) causing up to six folds to traffic safety hazards. According to traffic safety studies it is 20 times more likely probable for a driver to experience a safety-critical event when texting.

In conclusion, even though legal in-vehicle hands free devices (like dash-mounted GPS that can provide en route guidance) allow steadier steering and keep radiation at arms length.. from a scientific perspective, by not focusing completely on the driving, even hands free devices make no exception on the cognitive workings involved in brain function, producing an overall increased risk on the road that is ultimately very parallel to the risks of cell talk conversations.

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