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Thursday, October 28, 2004
Please take a moment to read this article from Yahoo! "Oddly Enough" News:
'Drunk' on Herbal Tea
Tue Oct 26, 1:33 PM ET
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California prosecutors are cracking down on kava-drinking motorists who are driving under the intoxicating influence of the herbal tea.
Following their first successful conviction in June, San Mateo County prosecutors have filed three other cases, after about a dozen motorists had been pulled over in recent years, said San Mateo Deputy District Attorney Chris Feasel on Monday.
Kava, while not considered as a drug by federal health officials, is classified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a nutritional supplement that can be used to relieve anxiety.
Motorists under the influence of Kava had a "thousand-yard stare," Feasel said. "They're drooling on themselves sometimes, their motor function is so bad," he added.
He said that police had pulled over kava-addled motorists who were swerving, veering into other lanes and drifting onto the road's shoulder.
"Kava basically has the opposite effect of alcohol," Feasel said. "Kava affects your motor skills before it affects your mental abilities."
The June conviction is believed to be only the second successful one in the country, following a 1996 case in Utah.
In the pending cases, motorists have admitted to drinking between 10 to 20 bowls of the bitter tea, which comes from the kava root, a member of the black pepper family.
"We're cracking down on DUI drivers," Feasel said. "Whether it's driving under the influence of kava, or a good merlot or Advil, you're going to be prosecuted."
First, I'd be so totally pissed off if I got a DUI for taking an Advil.
Yet that isn't my reason for sharing this piece. The reason is that if we're going to start pulling people over for "swerving" and "affected mental abilities" due to herbal tea, why aren't we pulling people over for those very things when they are caused by talking on a cell phone?
You KNOW this is one of my BIGGEST gripes. Every day on the way to and from work more than half of the people I see are talking and driving. And they are the ones swerving, getting dangerously close to other vehicles or the shoulder, hitting their brakes for no apparent reason, and driving slowly and obviously not paying attention. I've had people on the phone pull out in front of me because they weren't paying attention. I've had them slam on their brakes because they missed their turn. I've seen them swerve all over the road because they are concentrating more on the conversation going on than on their driving.
This study says that:
We used a high-fidelity driving simulator to compare the performance of cell-phone drivers with drivers who were legally intoxicated from ethanol. When drivers were conversing on either a hand-held or hands-free cell-phone, their braking reactions were delayed and they were involved in more traffic accidents than when they were not conversing on the cell phone. By contrast, when drivers were legally intoxicated they exhibited a more aggressive driving style, following closer to the vehicle immediately in front of them and applying more force while braking. When controlling for driving conditions and time on task, cell-phone drivers exhibited greater impairment than intoxicated drivers. The results have implications for legislation addressing driver distraction caused by cell phone conversations. (Emphasis mine)
So, as I've said before, if drunk drivers are dangerous and therefore it is illegal to drive drunk - then WHY is it legal to drive and talk when it is PROVEN to be as or more dangerous?
ConsumerReports.org says that:
The suspicion about cell phones and cars caught fire exactly five years ago, with a study published in February 1997 in "The New England Journal of Medicine." That study, conducted in Toronto, Ontario, looked at 699 drivers who owned cell phones and had been in collisions. It concluded that when a phone was used while driving, the risk of a collision was between 3 and 6.5 times higher than when a phone was not used. It also concluded that the relative risk was similar to that of driving with a blood-alcohol level at the legal limit, and that cell phones that allowed hands-free operation offered no safety advantage. (Emphasis mine)
in Cell Phones and Driver Distraction 2/02
BankRate.com's Guide to Insurance states:
The Harvard Center for Risk Analysis reported in December 2002 that cell phone use could be faulted in 6 percent of the auto accidents in the United States each year.
in Cell Phone Chatter Can Cause Accidents
So why aren't we doing something? Why haven't other states followed New York's glowing example and made talking on a cell phone and driving illegal? If it's as dangerous as being intoxicated and behind the wheel, HOW can this still be something people are getting away with?
It doesn't take a rocket scientist, or even these studies and articles, to prove that cell phone users who are gabbing while driving are seriously impaired. If you're over the age of 17 and drive a vehicle then you have seen with your very own eyes the ineptitude of these drivers. You've seen them swerving, you've been behind them when they start slowing down or suddenly slam on their brakes. You might have seen them almost hit someone or run a light. I know I have.
The fact remains that a vehicle is a potentially lethal machine and should be operated with respect, and the utmost attention. Would you have half an ear glued to the phone and operate a miter saw? Replace an electrical outlet? Work on the roof?
Let's look at this way - if you're a die-hard talker who thinks it is perfectly okay to gab and drive, answer me these two questions:
1. Would you want your child's bus driver talking on a cell phone while driving your kid to school? Why not?
2. Would you want the pilot of the plane you're riding in talking on a cell phone while he's piloting the plane? Why not?
Talking on a cell phone and driving should be illegal. Period. There isn't anything else to say on the matter.