I realize that James Lileks is a humorist -- and a very good one at that -- rather than a news reporter.
However, in his March 18 column, he furthers a common misconception. Writing about the potential dangers of cell phone use while driving, he says, "But with a hands-free device, it's doable."
Actually, by this point quite a few well-regarded university studies have shown that it's the mental engagement of a phone conversation while driving that is the main distraction or danger -- not the physical engagement of one hand holding or dialing the phone, or even periodically glancing at the phone's screen.
And yes, this is different from having a conversation with a passenger. While that also can be distracting, it is not as distracting as a phone conversation.
Even though a driver typically doesn't have face-to-face visual contact with a passenger while talking, it is still possible to process nonverbal signals (facial gestures and body language) through peripheral vision and occasional glances.
While there's no exact and objective figure for this, many linguistics experts think that nonverbal factors make up at least 50 percent of the information received in a conversation.
JOHN EWAN, FALCON HEIGHTS