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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, January 24, 2006

You mean I should just drive?

By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Columnist

I know I shouldn't do it.

Common sense tells me. My dad tells me. The officer who pulled me over in Waikiki told me.

But I confess: I talk on my cell phone while driving.

In fact, that may well be the only time I actually use my cell phone, come to think of it. It's just another way I can get more things done in less time.

I doubt that excuse would hold up in court.

The ironic thing is I hate when other drivers are yapping on their cell phones and not paying attention to the road or to the annoyed reporter in the Honda Civic trying to change lanes.

Yes, I know I'm being hy-pocritical since I've confessed my cellular sins. But I like to think like nearly everyone who's been busted for using a cell phone while shifting into second, I'm sure that I know what I'm doing.

Or maybe I'm just lucky.

Drivers using cell phones are four times as likely to get into a crash that can cause injuries serious enough to send them to the hospital, reported one study.

Seems like common sense: Using a cell phone is distracting, and distracted drivers aren't focused on driving.

So we buy hands-free devices and pretend to be responsible drivers then use our "free" hands to browse through our PDA or wrestle with a Big Mac.

Yeah, real safe.

Maybe our heightened cell-phone use, particularly while driving, is more a reflection on how busy we've become so busy that we would risk safety to cross another item off the ever-growing to-do list.

That 20-minute drive from 'Aina Haina to my parents' house in Kalihi is just enough time to make a hair appointment, check my work voicemail, get an estimate on tint for my car and catch up with my gal pal from L.A.

Four items down, 39 to go!

And it's not just me. I can't remember the last time I made a call from my car to a girlfriend who was actually sitting at home, doing nothing. They're always working late, running errands or on the highway like me. I've even had a conversation with a girlfriend who was nursing while checking her e-mail. Now that's multitasking!

It's hard to imagine life without cell phones, though it wasn't that long ago we were all sporting pagers and rolls of quarters.

I don't even remember how I passed the time.

Did I sing? Did I talk to myself? Did I just drive?

Is that possible?

So this morning I'm not going to use my cell phone during my morning commute. I'm going to switch on NPR, roll down my windows and soak in all the reasons why I'm glad to be alive.

I'll tell you all about it when I get to the office.

Reach Catherine E. Toth at ctoth@honoluluadvertiser.com.