Jeff Vrabel: Another rage-inducing reason to hate drivers on phones

Jeff Vrabel

Since it's been more or less proven that people won't stop talking on their cell phones while driving even though the practice has been proven to cause adverse effects, such as killing you, let's try this: In addition to making you dangerous and look like an idiot, talking on your cell phone while driving in congested areas is making you late.

According to a new study that will be presented this month to the Transportation Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences (which was voted No. 1 party Research Board in a recent study by Penthouse), motorists blathering away on their cell phones often fail to simply keep up with the flow of traffic.

This is in addition to all the other things they do wrong, which is weave a lot, sit in the left lane diddling along at 12 mph under the speed limit, own Navigators, forget entirely that their car comes equipped with a blinker, and remain blissfully, enviably ignorant of me when I'm trying to pass them, which is hard to do, since I'm generally screaming vivid, unholy obscenities at them out of the window while loading my blowtorch.

All told, cell phone drivers dingle along at about 2 mph slower than their counterparts out here in the real, carbon-based world.

Sure, it doesn't sound like much, but when you do the math - or rather, let someone else do the math because the presence of numbers and formulas makes my eyelids twitch uncontrollably - if you commute an hour a day, that adds about 20 hours a year to your commute. And yes, this goes for all cell phone motorists, including those using those wireless hands-free devices that make them look like the dorky cousins of the guys who run the guns at the Death Star.

"The distracted driver tends to drive slower and have delayed reactions," said David Strayer, a professor at the University of Utah in the field of Stuff Everyone Knows Already But Should Probably Be Reminded Of Anyway (I kid Professor Strayer - he's the guy behind the study that compared cell phone drivers with drunk ones). "People kind of get stuck behind that person and it makes everyone pay the price of that distracted driver."

The study goes on to say that overall, cell phone drivers needed 3 percent longer to complete a highly congested route, and 2 percent longer for a medium.

It's tough to pinpoint exactly how late you're being made, but adding everything up, carrying the 2, dividing by pi and enacting the quadratic equation, distracted drivers are stamping on an additional 5 to 10 minutes onto your commute.

And this, friends, is the rub: If I make the safe but not absolute assumption that I'm not going to be smeared across the highway by some dimwit with a Blackberry engaged in a revue of all the horrible things his boss did to him that day, I am in full near-libertarian support of your right to blather away in the car, up until the very microsecond that I get stuck behind you, at which time I become a believer in big, behemoth, giant government and despotic, autocratic rule, much like the kind that we're enjoying currently.

Once I get behind someone going 2 mph slower than the rest of traffic, or me, I am more or less in favor of passing emergency legislation right then and there that would allow the government to issue a pinpoint laser blast from a satellite located in space to blow the dingbat on the cell phone off the road. I've already floated an e-mail to Big Shot Iowa Barack Obama, ever since those 12 old people in Iowa told us he was America's favorite candidate.

That's right, Barry - my idea. If you spend any time in New Hampshire talking about your Satellite Cell Phone Driver Laser Blast Initiative, I am calling up John Edwards to sue the daylights out of you.

Jeff Vrabel is a freelance writer who keeps his blowtorch in the glove box for emergencies. He can be reached at