Fergus Falls Optometric Center
"Family Eyecare from the Eyecare Family."
Dr. Mark D. Olmsted and Dr. Christine A. Olmsted
117 E. Lincoln Ave.
Fergus Falls, MN 56537
Appointments: 218-736-7555

July is National Cell Phone Courtesy Month

July is National Cell Phone Courtesy Month

By Dr. Mark D. Olmsted

Cell phones have made the world a much smaller place. I remember using our ‘communicators’ when playing “Star Trek” forty years ago with my friends on the grade-school playground. These pretend devices were just empty Gillette double-edged razor blade containers that we lifted from our dads’ shaving kits. Quite an imagination, yet we never imagined that this form of technology could be a real thing for us as adults (short of the phaser-feature, but hey…maybe a cell-phone stun-gun is in the works?). Oh, and if you’re wondering…I was always Scotty. J

While trying to think of idea for an article, I discovered that July is “National Cell Phone Courtesy Month”. What’s that have to do with vision? Well…I’d like to add cell-phone safety into the mix, with cell phone visual distractions during driving in the spotlight. I would call the unsafe practice of texting while driving discourteous, wouldn’t you?!

When driving, there are over 200 simultaneous visual cues that one must directly or indirectly focus on and mentally process. We use our central vision to ‘zoom in’ on the car in front of us or the stoplight or the exit sign. But we must also use our peripheral vision to watch for intersecting cars, bikes, pedestrians, pets, balls, and people exiting cars, etc., as we’re focused on the road ahead. Your vision and your brain power act as your ‘air traffic controller” in this situation.

Distraction related car accidents caused 6000 U.S. deaths and half a million injuries in 2008. Of course, there are many ways that a driver can get distracted, but I’m going to pick on cell phone use during a drive for the purposes of this article. Cell phone talking causes about 25% of all car accidents. According to the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, drivers talking on cell phones are 18% slower to react to brake lights. They also take 17% longer to regain the speed they lost when they braked.

Studies have found that texting while driving causes a 400% increase in time spent with eyes off the road. For every 6 seconds of drive time, a driver sending or receiving a text message spends 4.6 of those seconds looking away from the road. It comes as no surprise that this makes texting the most distracting of all cell phone related tasks. People who text while driving are 23% more likely to have a car accident. Drinking and driving is very, very bad, but texting when behind the wheel increases the chance of car accident six-times over driving while intoxicated!

As many as 84% of Americans believe that talking and texting on a cell phone are the two most dangerous behaviors one can do when driving, yet 81% of surveyed drivers admit to using a cell phone when driving. So…where’s the ‘disconnect’ here? Only you can control yourself in this situation. If we try to teach the young drivers in the family to follow suit and they lead by example, maybe it will rub off on their friends too.

As Jim Morrison sang in Roadhouse Blues, “keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel…” Oh, and one more little editorial comment on non-driving cell phone courtesy… that phone call from your buddy who is taking you on a road trip to “Hooters” later that day in NOT an emergency. (This interruption actually happened during one of my eye exams a couple of years ago!) Unless you’re expecting an urgent call, please turn off your cell when at the movies, the theatre, a musical performance or during your professional appointments and meetings. I doubt that I’m in the minority regarding this pet peeve.