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September 22, 2009


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Ronni Gordon

I'm really bad about this, and I know it. I'm going alone back and forth to Dana-Farber, about a two-hour drive, and sometimes I talk way too much. Actually it helps me stay what I think is alert if I'm starting to feel tired. You're right. I should put it away. But I always like to have it close in case one of the kids calls. Of course when we were growing up, we and our parents somehow survived without instant cell phone updates. Probably a good thing, too!

Kairol Rosenthal

I heard a great piece about this on NPR last night and the part that got to me was the selfishness of it all. Everyone in the interviewed talked about their own personal safety and whether they would risk injury in an accident because they couldn't give up talking or texting.

But, what about the mom with her baby in the back seat who get run off the road because of our poor phone habits? Nobody talks about that side of it - the injury that our selfish habits inflict on others. Study after study shows that no matter how good the driver - talking or texting greatly increases the chance of accidents.

I leave my phone on in case someone wants to reach me during an emergency. But I almost never talk in the car. I don't even answer unless it seems out of the ordinary important. I love being sequestered away from the world in my car with time to think, catch up on news, or jam out to good music. It is great alone time.

blog -

Wendy S. Harpham, MD


Thanks for sharing this and pointing out another benefit of not answering the cell phone while driving.

For me, it's not just the texting or talking, it is also the fumbling for the phone, the shift of attention away from the road to the phone, the reading the caller-ID and deciding whether to pick up.

I, too, used to justify by saying "It might be an emergency." How many emergencies required immediate pick-up since getting my first cell phone years ago? None.

If I'm worried about an emergency, I can pull off the road and hit "talk" to automatically dial the last incoming caller.

Forgive me if I sound harsh. I'm talking to myself as much as to my readers. It only takes a couple of seconds to get in a crash.

Again, since I know my emotions take over when I hear the ring (i.e., I can't resist answering my cell phone), from now on I am putting my phone out of reach in the car. I'll let you know how I do with this strategy.

With hope, Wendy


Honestly, if I'm going to go out because of doing something stupid I want it to be waaay more dramatic than talking on my cellphone. Skydiving, cliff jumping, something dramatic not a call from my husband (as much as I love him) asking me to get milk.

Wendy S. Harpham, MD

This comment made me laugh aloud, but it is so, so true! Thanks, Kate.


I am familiar with a heartbreaking story of a young girl killed while bicycling on a family trip when a driver reached for his CD (much the same as reaching for one's cell phone) and veered right into her. You are correct that we all must think before doing anything but driving while in a car.

Lori Hope

My comment is nothing to laugh about. I just watched the British PSA - horribly violent, deeply disturbing - that shows an unimaginably tragic consequence of texting while driving. (If you haven't heard it about, go to youtube and search "texting accident", though I don't recommend watching it unless you have a few minutes to cry.)

What this makes me think of is lung cancer, which is caused in 85% of cases by a dangerous behavior that people choose to engage in - people who start as teens, just as most texters do.

Texting while driving should be as socially unacceptable and stigmatized as lung cancer.

Thanks for this post, Wendy, and for the blog idea. I may write about this tomorrow.

P.S. Holding a cell phone and talking, and texting are illegal in California. But it's laughable because the fine is something like $35 and the laws aren't enforced at all.


I always have my cell phone with me when driving but I never use it while my car is moving. If it vibrates, I know I need to call someone back when I get to my desitnation. If I think the call might be more urgent, I'll check the caller ID at the next stoplight to see if I need to call back right away. If so, I pull over and park. The only time I use a cell phone in a moving car is when I'm the passenger. I have no intention of getting killed or maimed for the sake of a phone call, and I've told a friend who frequently called me while driving to stop because I never want to be put in a position to hear her being killed.

Lori, I am appalled that you think lung cancer should be stigmatized. Not all cases of lung cancer are caused by smoking, and no one smokes because they want to or don't care if they get lung cancer. What should be socially unacceptable and stigmatized is smoking, not lung cancer.

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