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.