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Healthy Aging

Put Down the (cell) Phone

By Sheryl Kraft

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Okay, I'll admit it. I'm guilty. Well, sort of. I don't exactly text while driving, but I do keep my cell phone within easy reach and each time it notifies me that a new email has landed in my inbox, I'm tempted to take a quick peek. It's just hard to resist, even though I know that it can always wait.

And I do talk on my phone while driving. Although I use hands-free – always – I now realize that it doesn't matter all that much. Last month when hubby was in the hospital and I was driving back and forth every day, the stress and sheer day-in-day-out routine made me reach out to friends. I needed them, just to talk to. Seemed harmless enough until, one night, I took a wrong turn. Actually, I didn't take the turn necessary, and wound up on a totally unfamiliar highway in a totally unfamiliar (not-too-safe) area. I was shocked – I knew this route inside and out and had driven it a million times before. Aha, I silently scolded myself - after telling my friend "I have to go!" - that's what is meant by "distracted driving."

Lucky for me, I pulled over when I could and pleaded with my GPS to deliver me home safely. And it did. After that incident, I think twice before calling someone while I'm driving, unless it's an absolute emergency or I know the call will take only a few seconds.

In case you missed it, our executive director Elizabeth Cahill posted about this just last week.

Oprah is campaigning to eliminate distracted driving. When I checked out her website, I was terrified to read this: "Nearly 500,000 people are injured and 6,000 are killed each year because drivers are talking, texting and e-mailing behind the wheel." I'm horrified to hear stories – and see it myself – of people actually emailing while driving. I can always tell who is talking on their phone or texting just by the way another car is moving (slowly or erratically).

So, it might not be you – but another person who causes an innocent person harm because they're not paying attention. They're instead doing something they think is benign but carries so much potential or irreversible harm to others.

Please join me in taking a pledge that you will not text or talk while driving. One thing that helps me is to silence my phone so it doesn't create the Pavlov-type response in me to grab it and look each a new email or phone call comes in. Maybe that's not good enough for some; how about tucking your phone away in the glove compartment instead?

I've found that disconnecting from the outside world actually feels good. And it could really make a big difference.


In New Zealand, laws prohibiting using your cell phone except with hands-free have just been implemented. Hands-free talking is still allowed, but I always pull off if I need to use the phone. It's simply the safest option.

I wish more people would do what you do, Frugal. We all need to break this bad habit!

My sister was seriously injured by a driver who was texting--and he wasn't a teen. I support your efforts!

That's awful...hope your sister is on the mend. Scary to think of how many people are not only compromising the safety of others but theirs, as well.

I do not have a cell phone. I have always been suspicious of cell phones. Once a guest called and asked if my green B&B is near a cell phone tower because cell phone towers gave him radiation sickness. The answer was no, but we do have Wi-fi, and that, too, excluded us from his list.

Studies in Scandinavia have shown people who use their cell phones may get brain tumors. So, I made sure my kids used that gadget that means they do not talk into the cell phones while driving.

Now we have a whole new danger related to cell phones, the risk of being hit by someone who is checking email or texting. To me, this is a no- brainer. While I admit there is no proof cell phone radiation will hurt you, all one needs is good sense to understand distraction of this sort, at the wheel, should not be allowed. I hope Oprah succeeds with her campaign. Folks texting while driving are a danger to others, and to themselves.


Yes, there are so many dangers - not only healthwise - that relate to cell phone use. I hope, too, that Oprah succeeds in her campaign. Just making people aware is a big step.

The law here just changed and one is no longer allowed to drive and talk on the phone, unless you are hands free. But even then it's simply too dangerous. I am no longer using the phone in the car AT ALL, even though I've been guilty in the past too...

Jennifer, I agree about hands-free still being a distraction. Just the concentration it takes away from driving is enough to cause your mind to drift.

"So, it might not be you – but another person who causes an innocent person harm because they're not paying attention. They're instead doing something they think is benign but carries so much potential or irreversible harm to others."

Argh, I have to say that I'm occasionally guilty of testing while driving. I would feel terrible if I hurt someone. Thank you for the reminder!

We all need the reminder, Stephanie - and hopefully will be able to resist the urge to use our phones while we drive.

Good reminder of safe driving practices. Did you know that the Transportation Department just passed a ban on text messaging while driving for commercial truckers and bus drivers? And Massachusetts may soon pass a text messaging ban for all drivers in the state. I don't drive often since I live in the city, but I actually had a minor accident about ten years ago because I was talking on my cell phone and backed into another car. Yikes!

Yes, Susan, I remember reading about that awful train accident that occurred because the driver was texting while driving the train, so it would make sense to ban it for truckers and bus drivers, too. And in NYC, they've just banned taxi drivers from talking on their cell phones while driving.

Yes, yes, yes! No texting or cell calls while driving. It's a no-brainer.

distracted driving? hmmmm...while i agree with all the rules to reduce external communication in the car (even if i'm guilty of not always following them to the letter of the law) what about all the commotion that's happening in the back seat:

crying babies, screaming toddlers, arguing siblings, and 'tweens and teens that drop a bombshell on you while you're behind the wheel??? they're all driving hazards too!!!

Absolutely, Sarah. Screaming, fighting kids are a huge distraction. Whenever my kids used to fight in the car, I hated it - it took my concentration away in a very big way!

I'm a rarity, I suppose, in that my phone is for emergency use only. I agree that phone use while driving is uncalled for, but let me add to the mix: chatting in a public restroom, talking your way through the grocery store, and in the library. People, please. Put down the phone and make eye contact with some of the people in your neighborhood!

Hi, Kris - Yes, agreed - people need to interact more with who is around them rather than who is on the other end of the phone~! When I walk around NYC, I'm amazed to see just how many people are talking on their phones. There's hardly anyone who is not.

I was hit last year by a woman talking on her cell phone. Fortunately it was just a fender bender, but she was driving a compact car, and "did not see" my fire engine red SUV!
One recent university study showed that drivers talking on cell phones were more apt to have an accident than drivers who were legally drunk! And the study was done with "hands free" phone devices!
Numerous studies have shown that "hands free" is no less dangerous than a "hands on" cell phone!

Kathy - Thanks for writing. I was not aware of that study - how frightening! And I know that "hands free" does not give us any measure of safety. although it seems like it would. I think that fact lures people into a false sense of security.


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