There are only about 660,000 or so hams licensed in the U.S. The vast majority of these do not operate mobile. The vast majority of those do probably spend most of their time listening. In such a case, we’d expect that the number of accidents caused to be much lower than those caused by cell phones, even if mobile operation was every bit as dangerous as using a cell phone. The overall instance of accidents may be only 0.1% or less of the levels we see from cell phones. One study estimated that 6000 accidents might have been caused by cell phones in California in 2001. Even if ham radio were as dangerous, we might expect to see only six accidents in the entire year from ham radio operation.
Now, the are some other variables at work that would be interesting to toss around:
- A lot of amateur radio operators are older, would cause the rates to trend upwards?
- Are amateur radio operators more distracted when we have to fiddle around, find a mic, adjust the radio, etc?
- Is a study done in 2001 going to accurately reflect numbers in 2009?
However, the kicker of this whole article is not the post by Mark, but a comment done by Schley Cox:
I operate mobile with amateur radio using Morse code. I copy in my head, my eyes never leave the road in front of me and my right hand (sending hand) is not more than 2 inches from the bottom of the steering wheel. I tune my radio by ear only. I work a narrow range of frequencies without ever looking at the radio. Compare all these situations with using a cell phone, or even a mobile radio using a microphone.
My right and left brain don’t have much to do with each other and it doesn’t seem distracting to me to both send and receive Morse code while driving on stretches of highway. If I need both hands on the wheel while sending I simply send AS and the other operator knows to wait for a while. I don’t have to explain to her (or him) why I am stopping sending.
I don’t operate at all on busy highways. Period. There’s not even time to send AS somewhere (like I-65) while careening between lanes at 80 mph trying to keep from getting rear ended by the rush behind.
Holy crap, where do I begin? Mark makes the statement in a later comment that “This is precisely the kind of argument that I think we should all view with skepticism.” and I wholeheartedly agree. I’m scared the Mr. Cox can think he can do CW in his head and fully concentrate on driving. I will give credit to him for at least realize that doing it on a busy highway is bad, but I hope he isn’t sharing the road with me while I commute. Mark is right to point out that distractions come in all different shapes and sizes while driving: people in the car, twiddling the A/C, and using a mobile phone. It’s foolhardy to think that we are somehow above all that.