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Classic car phone ad pitches a rolling office and distracted driving

Multitasking and motoring have long been a dangerous combination

Published: May 22, 2014 11:30 AM

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"Confer with your staff from the road" read a Nynex car phone ad spotlighted in the October 1984 issue of Consumer Reports. It featured a photo of a businessman with one hand on the wheel and the other holding a Nynex "Priority One" mobile phone to his ear. Multitasking appeared to be priority one since day one over safety.

Conferring with the staff from the road wasn't cheap, with the 1980s price of this technology running about $2,500 for the hardware and $100 for monthly phone service. (In today’s dollars, that leading-edge tech would be almost $6,000.)

In contrast to the rolling office pitch of the ad, the Nynex phone's owner's manual instructed: "Do not use any mobile telephone while your vehicle is in motion. Stop the car in a safe location before answering or placing a call." Kind of negates the whole “mobile” aspect of a mobile phone.

When we asked Nynex about the conflicting messages of the ad and the manual, a company representative said that the advice in the owner's manual about stopping the car before getting into a conversation is only a ”suggestion,” and that many people drive with only one hand on the wheel anyway. Even today, consumers are facing similar mixed messages, with anti-texting campaigns competing with the rollout of tempted new ways to use a smart phone on the go.

A statement issued by the Insurance Information Institute said that a driver using a car telephone "may be an accident waiting to happen" and suggested that drivers pull off the road to make or receive a call. In retrospect, the Institute had sage insight, as studies repeatedly reveal using a phone behind the wheel is dangerous.

So steer clear of the one-handed rolling office and tell your mother that you keep both hands on the wheel. Our distracted driving and safety hub will help, with information and tools to keep your attention on the road.

Sharon Riley

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