The Mind-BlackBerry Problem
Hey, you! Cell-phone zombie! Get off the road!
If we don't want this two-worlds experiment to be regulated nature's way—by killing people—then we'd better regulate it ourselves. Here are a few proposed rules of the road. Multitasking is a glorious gift. We can't ban it, nor should we. Want to phone your spouse or your office while walking? Fine. The only life at stake is yours. Want to turn on your car radio or music player? Fine. Listening is easier than talking, and you can mentally or physically shut it off when necessary. Want to chat with your passenger? Fine again. Studies indicate that passenger conversations are less distracting than phone calls, apparently because you're sharing and often referring to the same environment.
The real danger comes from being mentally sucked out of your world while operating thousands of pounds of metal at high speed. Only five states prohibit driving while holding a phone, and if you're an adult with a hands-free phone, no legislator is even proposing to mess with you. That has to change, because research shows that even with a hands-free device, talking on a phone can impair driving skills more than intoxication does. If you need to talk to your spouse or boss, go right ahead—but first, pull over. You're free to visit the other world. Just don't leave your car moving in this one.
Will Saletan covers science, technology, and politics for Slate and says a lot of things that get him in trouble.
Illustration by Robert Neubecker.