Talk about dangerous!

Elise T. Chisolm

April 30, 1991|By Elise T. Chisolm

OH MY GOSH, she's got a car phone! Watch out.

Yep, Pammy's succumbed to another high-tech yuppie toy.

What I've put up with! I have driven around with Pamela while she applies eye-liner at a traffic light. I have driven with her while she curled her eyelashes on a long stretch of interstate.

I have cautioned, ''Maybe you could lose an eyelash,'' adding, as we approach a huge lumber truck and my knuckles turn white -- ''. . . or a dear friend.''

But her car phone is really dangerous. She insists she needs it for her real estate deals.

I have told her that just because she can pat her head and rub her tummy at the same time does not qualify her for handling a car phone in a treacherous situation.

And now I have a nephew who has a car phone. He insists he needs it in his business. He's a computer specialist.

He did admit when he first got it that he had some trouble concentrating on traffic while telling some computer novice how to run his new software. This while driving around the District of Columbia, where even the natives don't know what they're doing.

But I love it when he calls from some place and, over the static that reminds me of the old crystal radios, tells me he is coming to see us. And I always say, ''Watch that blind spot!'' which makes him hang up immediately.

But now there are some real statistics on car phones and whether or not they distract the driver.

The National Public Services Research Institute in Landover, Md., conducted a survey for the Automobile Association of America's Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The study says that drivers involved in cellular conversations are 30 percent more likely to overlook potential hazards, such as your rear bumper!

Here are the stats:

* Even casual chitchat or just dialing a car phone distracted drivers enough so they failed to respond to hazards nearly 7 percent more often.

* When talk turned to solving simple math problems -- designed to simulate business conversations -- drivers failed to respond to hazards nearly 30 percent more often.

* When engaged in casual or business conversations, drivers age 50 or older failed to respond to hazards 38 percent more often then younger drivers.

Now the last part of the research is a little frightening. The executive director of the Washington foundation says that he is worried about the Japanese -- they have lap computers for the car!

Get ready for a big run on air bags.

For years I have made it a point not to drive behind a truck with an uncovered load, a woman driver who is putting on her lipstick or anyone who reads the paper -- it's usually the Wall Street Journal -- while he drives.

And now, there's a ding-a-ling ahead of me talking on his phone. I give him a wide berth. My car does not have an air bag.

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