Laws banning cell phone usage while driving exist in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and the District of Columbia have been in effect for some time, and their success at reducing the accident rates related to cell phone use has prompted adoption of similar legislation in
California and Washington, due to go into effect in 2008.
In a bid to highlight these new laws, and to encourage people to change their driving behavior, Headsets.com — an online retailer of telephone headsets — will offer a free cell phone headset to anyone who sends them a copy of their traffic citation for making calls while driving.
Studies by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis have shown that 2,600 people are killed, and as many as 330,000 people are injured each year in the United States, in accidents related to driver distraction from using a cell phone. “I just feel compelled to try and do something about this tragedy,” says Mike Faith, president and chief executive officer of Headsets.com.
“If you put a 20-year-old driver behind the wheel with a cell phone in their hand, their reaction times are the same as a 70-year-old driver who is not using a cell phone,” says David Strayer, professor of psychology at the University of Utah. Simulations have shown that drivers talking on cell phones were 18 percent slower to react to warning signs such as brake lights while driving and talking on their cell, and took up to 17 percent times longer to regain speed after braking, slowing down all road users.
“We’d rather that people didn’t take calls while driving, hands-free or not,” says Faith. “There’s just no way you can chat on the phone and keep the same attention on the road.”
Faith notes, however, that the reality of the situation is that people will continue to do it, and he hopes this program will help those that are finding it difficult to change, to at least take a step in the right direction by switching to a hands-free system. “Of course, we encourage everyone to pull over if they have to make or receive a call – it’s the only way to be really safe.”
The company website has been updated to cope with the expected influx of applicants to the program as new laws come into effect, and a special toll-free number has been set up, 800-HEADSETS, for those that wish to start their free headset claim over the phone. For more information, go to www.headsets.com/drivers.