Join the Car Talk Community!

Discussion Rules

Welcome to the Car Talk Community!

Want to ask a question or join the discussion? Great! Join now.

Sign In Register

Do you use your phone while you drive?

We know that lots of people talk on the phone while driving. Are you one of them? No judgment here! (Well, we'll keep it to ourselves). We just want to engage folks in a discussion about why people use the phone while driving, under what circumstances, and what your experience has been. Have you noticed that your driving is the same, or worse when you're on the phone.

Let us know what you think! And thanks.

Tom and Ray Magliozzi

Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers


  • edited January 2010
    No. I turn the cell phone off while I'm driving, look at missed calls later.

    I'm concerned about pedestrians too.
    I recently saw a guy nearly get clobbered
    stepping out against a red light at a downtown Wash. DC intersection.
    On his phone looking at the ground immediately in front of him.

  • edited January 2010
    I will take a call from my wife. It could be important. I tell her I'm driving and the key info is related quickly and I'm off the phone.

    If I can pull off the road easily, I'll take a call and tell the caller to give me a moment to stop the car. If I can't safely pull over most callers will leave a message if it is something they deem important.
  • edited January 2010
    Do I use my cell phone while driving?
    Do I carry on extended conversations?

    I agree that driving requires focused attention to task, so when I use a cell phone while I am driving, it is with the following conditions:

    I use a hands-free device (as required by law in my state).
    My conversations are very brief, and are only done out of necessity (explanation to follow)
    I don't begin the call until I am in a situation with very light traffic or if I have stopped the car.
    I end the call if traffic conditions begin to suddenly become congested.

    Some typical examples of my car-bound cell phone conversation nowadays:

    Honey, I'm running a little bit late, but I'm on my way home. Don't worry! (conversation time--about 1 minute)
    Doctor X, I am stuck in traffic, can I still come to your office if I am 15 minutes late for my appt? (conversation time--about 30 seconds)
    Chez Poulet, we are going to be about 10 minutes late for our reservation. (conversation time--about 20 seconds)

    In other words, I only use the cell phone while in the car if I have to notify someone of my late arrival. And, no, I am not constantly late. The above-noted examples might represent...perhaps 4 calls over the space of 2 months.

    Driving behavior can definitely become different, in a negative sense, from using a cell phone. My first-hand lesson in this phenomenon was...maybe about 9 years ago, shortly after I got my first cell phone. I was on my way to work, and I was caught up in a big traffic jam as a result of an accident a few miles ahead on The Garden State Parkway. Ironically, I was only about 1/4 of a mile from my intended exit, but there I was, halted in traffic.

    I perceived that this traffic jam would make me late for work, so once traffic had come to a complete halt, I called my secretary to tell her that I anticipated being about 15 minutes late. She kept me on the phone for several minutes more than I had intended, asking me questions of the "what should I do about..." nature. While I was explaining what she should do regarding these situations, traffic slowly began to move. Then it moved a little bit faster. While I was focused on my conversation with the secretary, I wound up driving right past my exit!

    Because I was on a limited access highway, I had to drive to the next exit--about 4 miles distant--and then head back toward work on secondary roads and streets. The bottom line is that, even with the extra mileage that resulted from missing my exit, I was only about 4 minutes late for work. And, of course, that means that if I had not been on the cell phone, and had not missed my exit, I would have been on time for work!!

    That experience gave me a very clear lesson in just how distracted a driver can be when talking on a cell phone. Because of that phone conversation, I drove right past an exit that I had been using for...probably about 7 years. If I was able to be distracted from something that familiar, just imagine how poorly a driver will deal with an unexpected situation while gabbing on the phone while driving, and that is why my calls nowadays are only to notify someone if I will not arrive on time.
  • edited January 2010
    Good question. I'm in agreement that a cell phone is a major distraction to paying attention to traffic. Many jurisdictions now fine cell phone use while driving.

    I carry my phone in the car and leave it turned on. I don't make calls or text while driving. If I get a call, I let it ring when I'm in traffic, but answer it when on the open road with little or no traffic.

    The average driver cannot concentrate sufficiently on traffic while talking on the phone, even a hands-free model.
  • edited January 2010
    When we're away from home for an all day Albuquerque doctor/shopping day, and away for a week trip, I forward the home number to ring on my cel. As per normal telphone etiquette, When the phone rings you answer it.

    It's what happens next that determines the utility and driving safety of talking on the phone while driving.
    Most of these circumstances will have wife and kids along for the trip so I hand the phone to my wife to converse after I've answered or to answer first.
    Otherwise I specifically tell them " I'll need to call you back later, I'm driving."

    With all the other discussions about having LAWS for against texting, talking, viewing video and other distractions,
    One thing remains at the root of it all.
    The laws only engage after there's been a problem because of those actions.

    Changing peoples' frame of mind BEFORE a problem occurs because of it is the greatest challenge of all.
    Driver training can focus heavily on this topic for new drivers. But how on earth do get it accross to those who alraedy don't have a clue AND who don't even care ?
  • edited January 2010
    If I must talk, such as getting directions in real time (nope, I don't have a GPS), i'll put the silly thing on speaker and set it in my lap. That way I don't look like a fool talking on the phone and driving, just a fool talking to himself while driving.
  • edited January 2010
    I passed a potatoe chip dellivery truck on a busy street as he was texting while driving 40mph. He was intent on watching his screen as he plugged away at the keyboard, only watching the traffic over his knee, which held the steering wheel while his hands were busy operating the phone. All this could be seen as he was driving with his door open. YEAH, THERE OUGHTTA BE A LAW.............
  • edited January 2010
    I just hate the telephone in general so driving or not I'd just rather not have to use one (mobile or otherwise).

    But like many people it is a good coordinating device, and like many here I will answer the phone while driving long enough to figure out if I need to get milk on the way home.

    But I do have to say that the general cultural obsession people seem to have these days with the cell phone as the evil of the roadways is a bit overrated. The net ought to be cast a lot wider b/c there are many many things that drivers do that are really stupid and due to lack of attention to the task. Sometimes that involves a phone but just as often it does not. As with others I have seen people reading while driving, shaving, putting on make-up, cleaning up the fries that just fell in their lap etc.

    A campaign against "distracted driving" makes sense to me. Primary focus on the phone does not. I'll also add that allowing phoning if one uses a hands-free device makes even less sense to me. The issue isn't so much where your hands are (though I'm not saying that is irrelevant), but where your head is. The head set also takes your head out of the game.

    In general, I think people have all sorts of screwy ideas about what makes the roads unsafe. I think that there is perhaps one thing that is far more important than all others which is teaching people how to drive. An astounding number of people understand very little about how the roadways work.
  • edited January 2010
    Never. I have seen far too many cell phone problems.
  • edited January 2010
    No, I don't use a cell phone while I drive. I don't drive drunk either.
This discussion has been closed.