That Rush Limbaugh says outlandish, ridiculous things is nothing I haven’t been aware of for quite a while now. On Monday, a caller on his radio broadcast started in on how some politicians want to ban use of cell phones in cars, even in the case where wireless accessories allow one to keep two hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road. Limbaugh, of course, stopped the guy from finishing his point to make his own: it’s not about keeping Americans safe, it’s about minimizing their communication in the way “authoritarian” governments do, and besides, cell phone usage in cars isn’t related to accidents. During the 10-15 minutes that I continued to listen to him rant on and on as I drove home from work/school, he repeatedly exclaimed, “the issue is never the issue.”
A good friend of mine summed up Limbaugh’s ridiculous, conspiratorial assertion with the following sentence: “Wow, he’s not even trying anymore.” Literally, that’s exactly right. I queried “cell phones related to car accidents” on Google and the first link on the list was from EdgarSnyder.com.
According to data that Edgar Snyder & Associates compiled through various sources, “In 2008, at any given moment, over 800,000 Americans were texting, making calls, or using a handheld cell phone while driving during the daytime. With distracted driving killing nearly 6,000 Americans in the same year, it’s no mystery that cell phone use is risky for drivers.”
Even if we put aside, or better yet, agree with Limbaugh’s conclusion regarding why some politicians are pushing for a ban on using cell phones while driving, any sensible person should be able to acknowledge how naive and misinformed Rush Limbaugh is for claiming that cell phones aren’t related to car accidents. “It’s usually SUVs,” Limbaugh said, suggesting immediately after that SUVs usually spin out of control and crush compact cars.
Here’s what I think, since simply offering opinions without knowing the facts is apparently “in”: Limbaugh is either being dishonest to his listeners, or he is a very good driver who keeps his eyes strictly on the road, never glancing toward the driver side of cars in the next lane, which is marked more and more by men and women of my generation who are texting and driving simultaneously. Now, I do not text as much as a lot of my friends, and certainly not as much as teenagers, but even I am guilty of the dangerous texting-while-driving juggling act (consider the embarrassing exposition my “last cigarette”).
“56% of teenagers admit to talking on their cell phones behind the wheel, while 13% admit to texting while driving. (Note: Because this information was given voluntarily by teens, actual cell phone use numbers may be much higher.)”
“Actual cell phone use numbers may be much higher.” You got that right. You cannot tell me that driving-age teens to college graduates, who arguably have zero inhibition skills (aside from withholding honest answers to questions about their cell phone habits) as evidenced by the 2-4 thousand texts a month that the average 13-17 years old teen sends, the roughly 1,500 texts your average 18-24 young adult sends, and also implicated by the schmuck I saw texting while urinating in a male restroom in California University of Pennsylvania, are not texting while driving? I think it is safe to say that 13% is a pretty conservative number, and a more accurate figure would be between 40-50%, but, hey, that’s just me offering a guesstimate.
Here’s where I stand. I’m not convinced that most Americans are incapable of driving while talking on their cell phones. I use my speaker phone, some use a headset, and some simply talk with their phone to their ear like they would in any other situation, and I really don’t think that any of those scenarios pose a significant risk. But texting while driving, now that is a dangerous epidemic, kind of like listening to Rush Limbaugh and taking his thoughts and considerations seriously.