One of my editors tells me that my blog/rant on the upcoming cell phone law generated a bazillion page views in the first few hours. He put it on The Star's Home Page and it got a couple bazillion more.
That makes him happy. Happy editor; happy writer...
It has generated tons of comments too, which I am 'person-fully' attempting to publish. (I have had Internet and e-mail issues for the past week at Kenzie World Headquarters; I'm now in a hotel in Germany with high-speed, so YAY!)
Said editor also tells me not to try and reply to each and every comment individually, not even correct the spelling because it just takes too long!
So I'm trying to answer a bunch of them here.
Not all the comments are positive (well, some of you are positive that I'm totally out to lunch, but that's OK too.)
First, apologies to Donald Redelmeier, co-author of the research paper in the New England Journal of Medicine away back in 1997 which formed the scientific basis for the rant. He's with the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto, not the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, and thanks to Steve Shumak for pointing that out to me.
There ARE indeed world-class traffic researchers at "Skuke"; Dr. Redelmeier just doesn't happen to be one of them.
Some commenters say 'my' argument is weak.
But of course, it isn't 'my' argument; it's the argument of the scientific research. If you want to question the science, be my guest; I prefer to believe in it.
The research tells us WHAT happened; it doesn't always tell us WHY it happened. I suspect Dr. Redelmeier and his colleagues were surprised that hands-free didn't turn out to be safer than hand-held; it just didn't.
Likewise, they were probably surprised that the deterioration in driving ability didn't instantly improve when the study subject hung up.
That does however 'support the hypothesis' (that's how research people talk) that it is not an issue of manual dexterity, but of mental engagement. Just because you hang up the phone doesn't mean you stop thinking about the conversation.
Some commenters question how talking on the phone could be more of a distraction than talking to someone who is in the car - we obviously could never ban that. Again, the research doesn't necessarily tell us WHY that is the case, but it does suggest that it IS the case.
I have one snippet of a theory on that, and it stems from a belief my late brother had about his career as a radio announcer. Unlike a lot of radio personalities, Ross DID have a 'face for TV' (he was an extremely good-looking man) and he did in fact do some TV. But he always preferred radio to TV because it was a more involving medium, in that the listener could not SEE what he looked like, what colour shirt he was wearing, etc. - the listener had to make that up for himself, so there was more of a connection than with TV, which laid out everything for all to see.
If anybody really understands Marshall McLuhan, maybe this is related to what he was driving at too.
Getting back to cell phones versus in-car conversations, with the former you have to imagine what the person on the other end of the 'line' is wearing, what he/she looks like, what condition his/her office is in. Not consciously perhaps. But maybe this type of conversation simply engages more brain cells than talking to someone in the car.
Like I said, just a theory that may at least partially explain the results of the research.
My rant was indeed a blog, intended to generate conversation, and it certainly did that! It was not necessarily a manifesto about what should be done. I don't know whether banning hands-free devices too would accomplish much, but IF you think cell phone conversations are dangerous enough that they should be regulated, then only banning hand-held is unlikely to have much if any effect.
Some maintain that it is a step in the right direction. Well, not on the face if it, not based on this research.
But I will allow that IF it brings the issue to people's minds, that talking on a cell can be dangerous, maybe the ban just on hand-held will reduce cell chatting sufficiently that it will help.
A few people cheekily asked me to demonstrate how they could "text" other than hand-held. Well, I'd be the last guy to ask, because I have enough trouble typing with all (or most of my) ten fingers. With only my thumbs? Not gonna happen...
But I was under the impression that there is voice-to-text capability, that you can speak into your device and have it converted into a text message. As one of the comedians on the Sirius Satellite Radio comedy channels noted, if they could then convert the text back into voice at the other end, it would be... just... like... a ... phone...