Health Department

The cell phone has developed rapidly in recent years and, in a very big way, it has legitimately found its place. The idea of cellular communications is credited to Bell Laboratories, Cell Phone Notethe research division of AT&T, in 1947. But Dr. Martin Cooper, an inventor and general manager for the systems division at Motorola was first to demonstrate a portable cell phone application in April of 1973. It weighed over
2 pounds! In contrast, a mobile phone today weighs about 3 ounces.

Convenience and ease, portability, miniaturization, and a powerful utility have contributed to the cell phone phenomenon. In thirty years of development, we have certainly witnessed the achievement of Dr. Cooper’s goal—the ability for "people to be able to carry their phones with them anywhere." However, there can be a problem when technology meets social responsibility.

It seems there is no place too sacred for sending or receiving calls and/or messages. But now it's time to recognize and respect that there ARE sacred NO-zones. We must know when to put the cell phone down, disengage from it, and turn it off—for our own safety and for the safety of others. Most of us would consider it a personal tragedy to, in an instant, be responsible for an avoidable crash or even negligent homicide. Yet, this tragedy is happening more each year.

In 2008, drivers who weren't paying attention took nearly 6,000 lives and caused half a million injuries nationwide, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The number one No-Zone for using a cell phone is in a moving vehicle. Reaction time is reduced considerably when you are talking or texting. Mental concentration is inescapably divided and diverted. According to researchers at the University of Utah, using a cell phone while driving, whether it is handheld or hands-free, delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration of .08, the legal limit.

A cell phone conversation can be more dangerous than talking with a passenger in the vehicle. A passenger is also aware of the driving and road conditions and can alert the driver to imminent dangers in and around the vehicle. The voice or message on the phone, however, can only contribute to distractions. This applies to driving and talking on a cell phone while in a school zone or work area, on a highway, or in a pedestrian or residential area. These are all NO-Zones for using the cell phone.

It’s not easy to resist the cell phone while driving. Sometimes taking small steps can lead to improved behavior. Try this: place a Post-it note on your cell phone when resting it in your car. Just write “Do Not Use When Driving” and follow your own restriction. If you have overwhelming circumstances that require you to receive calls or make them, find a safe place to park, such as at the curb or in a parking lot. Only then will you be giving full attention to your call and keeping yourself and others safe.

Geof Crankshaw


Geof Crankshaw, Coordinator
Highway Safety Program
Erie County Department of Health

This information is distributed by Erie County Department of Health, 606 W. 2nd Street, Erie, PA 16507, 814-451-6700,


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