What health risks are real? What are imagined?
I don't know about you, but I think that my risk of experiencing sudden death in 2010 from sitting next to a terrorist in flaming underwear on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit is fairly low. But the risk of dying because someone used a cell phone while driving, or because I used one myself? That’s a lot higher:
- A study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Motorists found that motorists who use cell phones while driving are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves.
- In 2002, the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis calculated that 2,600 people die each year as a result of using cell phones while driving. They estimated that another 330,000 are injured.
- According to the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, drivers talking on cell phones are 18 percent slower to react to brake lights. They also take 17 percent longer to regain the speed they lost when they braked.
As a busy pastor commuting between your home, office, church, or the hospital, you may be even more tempted than other drivers to work on the phone while you're driving.
I invite you to weigh the costs and benefits.
Can learning in real time what your spouse hopes you'll bring home for dinner outweigh the risks of a crash? Will getting an update on the emergency you're reacting to change how you'll respond when you arrive at your destination? Do you really want to be available at any time or any place? Wouldn't you rather drive in companionable silence, or listen to music, than multi-task?
One approach to minimizing the temptation to answer the phone while driving is to turn it off before you get in the car, and keep it turned off until you are physically off the road or out of the car. Though a hands-free device might seem like an alternative, new data shows that they don't lessen risk appreciably - you're still distracted.
So maybe you use the few minutes to give yourself a break instead.
Just a thought...
Yours in health,
Robin Y. Swift, MPH
Health Programs Director
Clergy Health Initiative