After all, there is no reason to believe that cell phones are uniquely distracting. Both academic studies and surveys suggest that they are in fact less of a distraction than numerous things we regularly cope with while driving; such as children, road-rage and attractive members of the opposite sex in adjacent cars, to name a few.
But despite the fact that our roads are safer than ever and both fatality and accident rates have plunged over the last decade, we have somehow come to believe that cell phones pose a unique and urgent threat—a threat which must be dealt with immediately.
I suspect that much of this misplaced fear stems from the fact that cell phones—especially those of the “smart phone” variety—are a relatively newfangled technology and therefore must be dangerous, particularly when used in cars.
Of course this is nothing new. Americans have always feared change when it comes to automobiles. As the letter to the editor above shows, people made the same arguments about the dangers of the radio in 1933 that we hear about cell phones today. But despite the grim warnings, people quickly learned to drive with the radio playing, just as they had adapted to the comfortable seats and fast engines that the “safety experts” also wanted to ban.