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PopMusic: Hang Up and Drive

Junior Brown’s “Hang Up and Drive” is a former patrolman’s plea for everyone to stop the dangerous habit of having cell phone conversations while driving.

The song opens with a plea: “Honey, hang up and drive/Get offa that telephone/You all over the road and you ain’t looking where you’re going.”

Trying to couch the serious message in a little bit of humor, Brown continues “I mean I just about had it/With all your gidgets and your gadgets” before driving home his core message: “You got some good communication/But you ain’t got no concentration.”

The lack of concentration is exactly what the National Safety Council (NSC) underscores when it estimates that 1.6 million car accidents are caused by cell phone use—someone talking or texting—each year. That amounts to almost 30 percent of all traffic crashes.

Further detailing a report it constructed out of an extensive literature review, combined with statistics and analyses from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the NSC claims that at any given moment, 11 percent of drivers are on a call, increasing the risk of an accident by four times. The 1 percent of drivers “manipulating” their phones in other ways, including texting, at any given moment, they increase their risk of an accident by a much greater margin—anywhere from eight to 23 times the risk.

Lyrics later in the song—“Babe, you look like you been nappin’/The way that you been yakkin’” – serve to compare cell phone use with that other notable accident-causing circumstance—drowsiness at the wheel. However, driver fatigue accounts for approximately 100,000 crashes a year—a far cry from the over 1.5 million accidents caused by cell phones.

The media has actually taken a number of steps to try to halt this risky behavior. Recent public service announcements have done their part to denounce the practice of using one’s phone while driving. The popular television show Glee had a character seriously injured from texting while driving. AT&T created a multi-platform campaign, known as “It Can Wait” which even allows viewers to experience a texting-related crash from the perspective of the phone itself. It also includes moving testimonials from victims of texting and driving.

Approximately 50 percent of Americans support an all-out ban on any use of cell phones while driving. Maybe with Junior Brown’s help that will become a reality.

Read our introduction to the PopMusic series, The 2×2 Project’s compilation of some of the most iconic songs tackling topics of public health. Come back to see new songs posted every Thursday.

Edited by Jordan Lite. Additional research by Lauren Weisenfluh.

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The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the authors and do not represent those of the Department of Epidemiology, the Mailman School of Public Health, or Columbia University.