Phone of Reference

Phone of Reference

Last year, Mumbai’s traffic police enforced a ban on cellphone use while driving. It was backed by a fairly high fine. They even went a step further and banned the use of hands-free devices while driving too.

The extent of enforcing however, remains limited. The main reason for this is overworked traffic cops. And the fact that cops are often diverted to less important tasks including ensuring smooth flow of politician motorcade, etc. Then there is the blatant violation of this ban by literate and illiterate drivers alike.

Other countries have similar or slightly lax laws. Singapore and the US, for instance, allow the use of hands-free devices to make calls while driving.

Sometime last year I read an article that explained why it is a bad idea to speak on the phone while driving. Don’t remember the exact principles that governed it. But it stated that a driver speaking to co-passengers was completely different from speaking on the phone while driving. The latter being extremely risky.

Apparently, when you are driving and also speaking to someone aboard, you both are in the same relative plane of motion. Your mind is relatively present and aware. As are your reflexes.

However, when driving and speaking to someone on the phone, your mind gets into their frame of speed and reference. This means it takes you much longer to anticipate (if at all), and react to danger on the road.

Some of you might huff this off in disbelief. But here’s a seemingly comparable example I thought of. Yes, its yet to be tested or proven, but consider this. Compare two situations: one, where you’re singing a song while listening to it on the radio. The other, you singing while listening to the song using earphones.

Now let’s exclude any lack of talent or a ear for music and singing. You know you’d manage alright when listening to music on the radio, or for that matter, to someone singing around us. It might not sound great, but it is usually tolerable.

However, the moment you plug earphones in, we disconnect from our real frame of reference. Which could be why, that despite assuming we’re singing on Indian or American idol, that illusion gets shattered with someone pulling out a earplug and pleading with us to stop singing.

Commit to the habit of not answering or making phone calls or texting while driving. It really isn’t worth the danger.

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