Editor’s note: Terri Grauer is a consultant and writer specializing in the application of technologies to business challenges.Sanity Check is a regular feature in Local Tech Wire.
_______________________________________________________________________________________”In the land of race car yaya’s; in the land where you can’t change lanes” does it really make sense to add fumbling around with a miniature electronic device to mix?

I live in Charlotte, home of NASCAR and a half-million ‘closet’ NASCAR fans (my Yankee husband still won’t admit he’s a fan even though he watches the race every week). Nextel, the cellular phone company, is now the major sponsor for the former “Winston” series NASCAR events.

Evidently the ‘real’ fans take this sponsorship to heart, since almost every automobile in Charlotte has a number “3” or “8” on the rear window and a cell phone glued to the drivers ear.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Junior too and I enjoy the races on Sunday. But I really don’t want to be involved in a ‘road race’ every time I need to go to the grocery store or venture ‘uptown’ for a meeting. I would also add that I don’t want to ‘race’ a distracted driver who is arguing with their boss during ‘rush’ hour.

Convenience and Safety

I remember reading a quote by Alexander Graham Bell that he created the phone for his convenience, not for the convenience of others. I have always held the same unpopular position about my cell phone, it’s for my convenience. This has not made my former employers or coworkers happy when they’ve ‘demanded’ my attention by dialing my cell repeatedly, only to get my voicemail.

I don’t answer my cell phone when I driving, nor do I answer it after a certain hour in the evening. I do return phone call promptly as soon as I am in a position where I can have a conversation without distractions or interruptions; or without causing a distraction to others around me.

Everyone I know thinks they are a ‘great driver’ and they are certain they can ‘multi-task’ while behind the wheel, with the exception of two people. My mother and my husband. Both of them refuse to do anything other than drive and both are convinced they are average drivers; when in reality they are both really excellent drivers because of their convictions.

I on the other hand, think I am good driver since I’ve never had a ticket or accident, but I do realize my limitations when trying to do anything other than drive. So about the most I’ll tackle when behind the wheel is adjusting the volume of the radio or opening the driver’s side window. I tell you all of that to tell you all of this about traffic accidents in Charlotte.

Safe Movement Violations and Arrests

During the period January 2004 to May 2005 there were 4491 people stopped for “Safe Movement Violations” in Charlotte Mecklenburg. Of the 4491 people stopped, 734 were given written warnings; 2088 were given citations and an amazing 288 were arrested.

These people were not stopped for speeding, running a red light, equipment problems, seat belt violations or DUI — they were stopped only for ‘Safe Movement Violations”. Now the statistics do not list the actual number of cells phones glued to the ears of the drivers as they recklessly changed lanes, cut off other drivers, stopped suddenly, or in some other way endangered themselves and others in front of a witnessing police officer; but I am willing to take odds a cell phone was involved in more than 50% of the incidents.

If not the for the distraction of the conversation taking place on the cell phone, the driver probably would have seen the police officer sitting on the side of the road or in the lane next to them.

My final point is, unless the call is from your child or child’s caretaker, school, etc, is there really business that can’t wait until you can devote your attention to the call?

By the way, the opening of this column is a lyric by the group “CAKE” from their song “Race Car YaYa’s” … it’s got a funky little beat, but it’s hard to dance to while you’re driving.
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Terri Grauer is a consultant and writer specializing in the application of technologies to business challenges. She can be reached via email at terri@nthet.net