It would be good if our legislators focused on the science relevant to cell phone use rather than just the motor coordination required to text or dial a phone while driving (Mass. House OK's driving safety bill, Boston Globe, February 5, 2010: B1).
The science in unequivocal: a large part of the danger in cell phone use while driving is due to the concentration required while talking with a person on the other end of the phone. It is unequivocally not the same as chatting to a passenger in the car.
A passenger is also attuned to what is going on in the driver's environment so can adjust speech patterns in line with traffic flows and emergencies. A person at the other end of a telephone conversation has no such access to changes in the driver's environment.
We just do not have enough cognitive resources to attend to a conversation and to the unexpected changes that occur on the most routine of drives.
We must ban cell phones while driving. Period. Though I suppose this is a step in the right direction.
Sent to Boston Globe