A man lies slumbering in his bed, and is suddenly awakened by a low thumping sound in the distance. The sound is approaching, and the volume rises as it gets closer and closer.
The pounding bass torments his ears and excites his temper. He is infuriated. The house is shaking and the windows are rattling, as if the block were experiencing a small earthquake.
The shaking stops and the sound begins to fade, as a new sound entices his eardrums. He hears the painful sound that metal makes as it scrapes against the asphalt. He rages through the house, barley managing to stumble against window in order to see what could have caused such a commotion. As he squints through the glass, he catches a glimpse of the Honda Civic that has just disturbed his peaceful slumber. He can still see the luminescent glow from the LCD screens through the passenger’s side window. Then, to his dismay, he realizes that it is his son’s lifeless body that he sees hanging limply through the driver’s side door. This tragedy could have been prevented had his eyes not been fixated on his DVD player, his ears not been distracted by the ringing of his car phone, and had all his attention been focused on the stop sign that could have saved his life. The use of mobile electronics, such as mobile phones, car audio systems, and mobile visual electronics, are a severely dangerous and in some cases, even deadly driving companion.
The harms and dangers of mobile phones, when used while driving, are caused partially by the influence of mobile phone use on driver awareness, which is in direct correlation with collision statistics in the United States, and are prompted by non-enforced mobile phone legislation. Motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death in America. “Twenty to thirty percent of these accidents can be attributed to driver distraction” (McCosh.). Of these collisions caused by driver distraction, fifteen percent were due to the use of mobile phones while driving (Gilroy). In fact, the risks of a collision more than quadruples, while a driver uses their mobile phone (New England Journal of Medicine). If collisions are the leading cause of death, and mobile phones are one of the key causes, then one might think that society would rather not use them while driving. It would seem that society would agree, with eighty-four percent of people polled believing that mobile phones distract and increase the likelihood of an accident. However, sixty-one percent of those same people that were polled actually admitted to having used their mobile phones while driving (Parkes). Also, thirty-one percent of them admitted to using them on a daily basis. Not only are members of society putting themselves in high-risk situations every day, but also they do so without the excuse of ignorance.
Mobile phones also have an extremely dangerous and even deadly influence on driver awareness. The influence that mobile phones have on a driver’s awareness has been closely compared to the influence of alcohol. The risk of accidents and driver distractions while talking on the phone are equal to the risk drivers face while driving with a point eight-alcohol level, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. Therefore, one would conclude that, if a person is driving while using a cell phone have the same attention span as a person driving under the influence, then that person is no better than the alcoholic that believes that he hasn’t had to much to drive. Influences on driver awareness, in both situations, affect the driver’s ability to react to hazards. A person that is talking on their mobile phone is not prepared to react to a sudden change in traffic, or an unanticipated change in the environment. A tree could fall in the middle of the road, and the driver wouldn’t notice it until it was too late. Or, an unexpected collision could occur, and in these times, the maximum amount of awareness is needed so that the driver can make the most rational split-second decision necessary. When the driver is on his mobile phone, he is not prepared to make any of these decisions. Not to mention, emotional or heated conversations divert the driver’s awareness, and drivers are involved in these conversations for minutes on end (Moser).
Driver awareness is terribly hampered by the use of a mobile phone. Therefore, the driver should not use mobile phones at all while the car is in motion. Drivers can easily pullover before using their mobile phone. Also, if there are any passengers in the car, they can easily make the call for the driver. Most of the solutions to mobile phone dangers are common sense, though we find that use of these solutions is not so commonplace. Because common sense is not a virtue that society tends to possess, some legislation is needed, though, few states have actually attempted to regulate this problem. Regulations have been subject to over one hundred bills in thirty-seven states, but none have passed (Moser). California, Florida and Massachusetts impose minor restrictions (Alston). These restrictions are few and far between, and are not consistent. There are drivers who use mobile phones every day who are not held subject to these restrictions, due to lack of enforcement. To date, federal law mandates no mobile phone restrictions (Alston). This legislation is a sound ordinance law, strictly regulating car audio systems. It mandates the distance in which a car audio system can be heard, to fifty feet (Harris). Only five to ten percent of people report violations (Micheals). Others simply are unaware of the fact that the law exists. It is the state government’s job to keep its people informed. Failure to do so, allows these excessively loud systems to continue putting peoples’ health at risk. However, federal law does mandate harsh restrictions on driving while drunk. People don’t argue the fact that individuals shouldn’t drive while drunk, though apparently, people are still undecided when it comes to the use of mobile phones. Yet, the risks of driving while using a mobile phone are the same as while driving under the influence of alcohol, though, the consequences, unjustly, are not. It is these non-existing federal laws and non-enforced state restrictions, along with the absence of common sense, that continue to make mobile phones a dangerous and too often deadly mobile electronic.
Excessively loud car audio systems have an extremely dangerous effect on driver awareness, and can be harmful to human hearing. Furthermore, adding to the problem is the “Boom Car” legislation, which is rarely and inconsistently enforced. Some car audio systems project dangerously high levels of volume, or DBA (“It’s Your Health”). These excessively high levels of DBA can permanently damage the range of human hearing (Headwize). The level of DBA that a person can perceive or hear without damage depends on the frequency of the noise (Headwize). Hearing loss generally begins at high frequencies. The average human ears are only able to handle one hundred and fifteen units of DBA when the frequencies are anywhere from three thousand to six thousand hertz. This is when a persons hearing is vulnerable to the most amount of damage (Headwize). There are two types of hearing damage that result from loud noises, sensineural hearing loss, and tinnitus. Sensineural hearing loss happens in the inner ear when high-energy sound waves, rippling through the ear fluid, over-stimulate and kill hair cells. Tinnitus occurs when the hair cells are damaged beyond their capacity to heal themselves completely. It’s not completely deafening, but it causes a temporary buzzing whenever the same frequency is heard, in which the damage occurred (Headwize). Both of these types of hearing loss can compromise one’s quality of life, and are all too common when drivers take the risk of installing car audio systems that produce levels of over ninety DBA. This becoming more of a problem since most of the car stereos that produced today are capable of producing well above one hundred and twenty DBA. Making these amongst the most dangerous situations for drivers.
Driver awareness is also negatively affected by excessively loud car audio systems. Drivers think that they are assuming the simplest tasks, but in fact, they are the most dangerous. Tasks such as adjusting system setting, changing CD’s, adjusting deck audio and visual graphics, are all extremely large distractions (McCosh). There is a universal standard that limits in-vehicle electronic total operation time to fifteen seconds (McCosh). This standard has been adopted to help prevent drivers from being distracted from the road for dangerous amounts of time. Sure, some of these simple tasks may seem to only take a few seconds, but drivers tend to not stop at one simple task. One simple task then turns into a complexity of three or four simple tasks that aren’t so simple anymore. These tasks, then, manage to occupy drivers’ attention for more than fifteen seconds, and many times, for even minutes. Imagine all the damage one may cause while driving for fifteen seconds with their eyes closed, in the middle of rush hour traffic. Imagine all the destruction one can cause, and how much danger they put other drivers in. This is practically the same scenario that thousands of drivers risk everyday. This leaves one to ponder the current legislation that does not put a stop to these reckless acts of endangerment. There are “supposed” reckless driving laws mandated by the federal government. However, one would never know that these laws are even in existence. Driver distraction accounts for 4,300 collisions per day, according to the NHTSA. Obviously, if driver distraction is causing collisions, that these drivers are as reckless as they come. Distracted drivers are reckless drivers and should have to pay the legal consequences.
The use of mobile visual electronics, such as DVD players and navigational systems, they pose the greatest risk because they tend to grab the attention of the driver even if the driver isn’t using them in addition, the non-enforcement of legislation continues to allow the dangers of these devices to exist. The dangers of DVD driver distraction come from the driver’s inability to focus on the road. “DVD players place the driver in a hypnotic state, which leaves little reaction time, when needed” (Harbluk). If one were to follow the fifteen-second rule, then it would be common sense to conclude that it would not be the brightest idea to kick back and view a two hour long movie. It is obvious that a driver cannot watch a DVD and drive safely at one time, though drivers continue to do so. This puts everyone’s life in question, not only the driver. Driver distraction accounts for one in every four collisions in the United States each year, or four thousand three hundred crashes a day. These collisions killed one thousand people in the year 2000, and they could kill up to two thousand by the year 2004 (Wasserman).
The dangers of navigational systems result mainly from the rerouting devices, used to direct vehicles to requested destinations in the least amount of time. The issues with navigational systems are not technical. The issue is the system of rerouting (Gilroy). The driver simply has to insert the address to their requested destination and the device will direct the driver to the destination the quickest way possible. However, the quickest way is not always the safest way. “Many times, a person is rerouted to a bad area of town, and there have been occurrences where people have been car jacked and even seriously hurt” (Gilroy). Furthermore, navigational systems cannot predict the weather, and it could possibly reroute a person to an area that is not properly maintained. For instance, if there was a flood in the valley, and a person uses their navigation to try to escape it, they might end up being led to an even worse flooded area; possibly putting their life and the lives of the ones they love in serious danger. In addition, it has also been proven that people depend on these items as “safety devices”, such as the navigational system is dangerous to a person’s health. Drivers often get caught up the fact that they are “safe” do to these devices and they become less cautious on the road (Gilroy). Also, the use of a navigational device may influence a person to become dependent on the resource and less dependent on their directory skills, that they then become vital in a survival situation (Gilroy).
Legislation for mobile visual electronics has been mandated in thirty-nine states, total.” This legislation mandates that a driver cannot view a video screen while the car is in motion” (Gilroy). However, retailers of mobile video electronics continues to sell these items without special safeguards, which disengage the screen if the car is not in park. Some companies, such as Kenwood and Alpine, have attempted to enforce the safeguard by threatening to cut off retailers who do not include it. However, many consumers complained and stated that they would not buy products that include the safeguard (Gilroy). Visual electronics suppliers have lost thousands of dollars every month due to this issue. As a result, many suppliers have caved to consumer demands. Because these products are being sold without the device, many authorities tend to look past the legislation. This non-enforcement of legislation is continuing to allow the dangers and distraction of mobile visual electronics to remain.
As long as mobile electronics continue to be used while driving, danger will arise. Mobile electronics, such as, car phones, navigational systems, and DVD players, should not be used by the driver, at all, while driving. The dangers and risks of collisions are too high. Society must realize this fact, and take it seriously. Sure, these items are nice to have handy and to show off, but should not be made available to the driver. Mobile electronic legislation should be enforced more consistently then they are in this present time. This would limit the amount of danger on the road, and help ensure the safety of society in general. The proper enforcement of legislation would solve many of the dangerous issues with mobile electronics, making mobile electronics almost completely safe. However, people cannot leave their safety in the hands of legislation alone. Until society can take personal responsibility for each other’s lives, than mobile electronics, such as, car phones, car audio systems, and visual electronics, will continue to be a dangerous and even deadly driving companion.