Should Talking on Cell Phones While Driving be Banned?

48 Comments

Do you ever make business or personal calls on your cell phone while driving? If so, you may want to pay close attention to a campaign launched this week by the National Safety Council (NSC) to prohibit even turning on a phone while behind the wheel.

The organization sent letters to governors and legislative leaders in all 50 states, urging them to make the ban part of their motor-vehicle laws. This idea goes way beyond the efforts that have taken place in many states and cities to ban drivers from texting and using handheld phones. The NSC says that dozens of studies have found that using a hands-free phone while driving is no safer than using a handheld one. It’s a distraction issue, and the group says studies show that about 6 percent of all traffic fatalities are caused at least in part by drivers not paying attention while on the phone.

This shouldn’t be taken lightly. This is from a big organization with lobbying clout, the same group that devised the “click it or ticket” slogan, adopted in many places to warn drivers to follow the law and buckle up.
The AAA motor club, another group with influence, has a campaign of its own to educate drivers to the fact that using a hands-free phone isn’t safer than using a handheld. But AAA hasn’t endorsed the safety council’s more radical position.

What do you think of a ban on using a cell phone while driving?

48 Comments

Mike

@ kelly The current Virginia bill doesnt, i posted references at qrz dot com forum and radioreference dot com in the virginia forum. It vaugely indicates electronic communication devices AND cell phones. I have prepared a letter at the above locations to be sent to local representatives requesting the exemption for amateur radio and other land mobile radio users.

Kelly Martin

@Mike: Actually to date NO cell-phone-while-driving ban has affected the use of ham radios while driving. Every law and proposal I’ve seen so far has either excluded ham radios from its application explicitly, or has been worded such that a ham radio would not qualify (either because it’s not full-duplex, or because it’s not “connected to the telephone network”).

OrganizedFellow

@Mike – Re: Ham Radio

Years ago, it was allowed to smoke in the restaurant, the bar, the building, etc. Now smokers are being forced outside, why?
Safety concerns.
Nowadays, parents are giving kids time outs, taking away their video games, scolding them proper, etc. What happen to spanking? Now it’s called Child Abuse.

Times change man.
We need new policies and rules to accommodate these times.

Mike

This ban is bad news for Ham Radio, something thats been around in vehicles noteably since the 60’s even along side CB’s…there wasnt any new laws outlawing them then, why should they now. Give them inch theyll take a mile…..whats next, GPS, Car AM/FM radios, food, drinks, smoking, talking etc…

Marsha Egan

Distractions account for over a third of all accidents.

Whether you are talking to an individual in a car or talking all in a phone, the important point is to stay focused on navigating that to time killing machine that is in your hands.

Frankly, I believe that it is not necessarily the talking on the phone that is the real issue, but the taking the eyes off the road to look at the device, or much worse, manipulate it. Searching for numbers, texting, or reading can take the driver away from the task at hand for several seconds — more than enough time to kill someone or yourself.

Legislation defines the line of right and wrong. Sometimes people need to see this to help them decide what action to take. It is sad. What ever happened to common sense?

Glenn

I get why it’s illegal to drink (excessively) and drive. One beer at the local pub and driving typically doesn’t push you over the legal limit. Why, because statistically 1 beer doesn’t impair enough to cause a significant number of accidents.

Talking on the phone likely doesn’t rise to the level of one beer.

What about outlawing having someone else in the car. Certainly having screaming kids in the car impacts the driver as much or more then a cell phone.

Using the logic that 6% of accidents are caused because of talking on the phone, I’m pretty confident that 100% of accidents are then caused because people are breathing. Why not eliminate breathing while driving as well.

Brian Carnell

@Deon wrote: “Research shows that a head-on collision can take place in a matter of .78 of a second…just that moment when you glance at your phone to see who is calling!

Different people have different reflexes and mental agility…but it remains just too dangerous.”

This is the problem with the anti-cell phone argument…it too often devolves straight into hysteria.

1. The reality is that while using a cell phone while driving is certainly distracting, there appear to be other common activities done while driving that are much more likely to contribute to accidents, including something almost all of us have done — eating and/or drinking (leaving aside the alcohol issue) while driving.

2. If cell phones really are so uber dangerous, why have auto fatalities continued their dramatic decline since their introduction. It’s hard to rectify this anti-cell phone rhetoric with stories like this — the upshot of which is that most people appear to be using cell phones responsibly and those who are using them to distraction are likely the same people who aren’t going to be paying a damn bit of attention whether they have a cell phone, a cigarette or a hamburger in their hands.

Deon Binneman

Cellphones and driving should not go together.

Research shows that a head-on collision can take place in a matter of .78 of a second…just that moment when you glance at your phone to see who is calling!

Different people have different reflexes and mental agility…but it remains just too dangerous.

What is more important? Getting to your destination safely or in a body bag?

Is that call that important? What will they write on your tombstone…He was known never too miss a phone call?

wraith808

@Mulder:
He’s not a reporter. Therefore this is an opinion piece about a piece of news rather than a news report.

Mulder

@Tom Belden: I notice you injected your own opinion into this story, by labeling the position of the National Safety Council as “radical”.

So not only are you not reporting here, you seem to define “radical” as any position you disagree with. You need to recuse yourself from reporting anything until you learn how to adhere to journalistic standards.

L.J. Bothell

YES! Please ban them. I want ti live! Maybe that sounds drastic, but 9 out of 10 times when someone almost runs me down while I’m crossing the street, they are on the phone.

D Cross

The best way if you have to answer the cell is buy a hands free. They are only $100. Do not drive and talk on the phone if you have to use one hand. I cannot believe it when I see mainly women back out of their driveways in the morning with a cell stuck to their ear. Gosh, they were just in their house. Why didn’t they use their phone before they left?

OrganizedFellow

If my phone rings while driving, my wife answers it. She sits in the back with out 17 month old baby girl.
Even when I drive alone, I still don’t answer. I don’t even LOOK at my phone.
If I am driving in the city, I’ll shoot off a quick text reply. I have several ‘quick texts’ created just for that. Any ‘quick text’ is just 5 button presses away.
If I really need to send a longer, personalized message, or talk to someone – I pull off the road into a parking lot, of off the freeway with my hazards on. But I make it known that I’m on the road.

I don’t hide my ADD/ADHD from anyone, and I will not risk myself, my family, nor anyone else with ANY distractions.

All my friends know about this, and understand that I will call/text them back later.

Adam Lindsay

Typically I would favor less regulation and laws above all else. However what many Americans fail to recognize is that driving is a privileged and not a right. Once this distinction is understood, then banning cell phones while driving will no longer be up for debate.

Beyond that, any constraint put upon technology will be meet with innovation. Is that a bad thing?

Renata

Like Fernando said, here in Brazil is illegal and with a big fine. But I’m almost sure that even with the hand-free set up you will be fined for driving without attention.

I believe this is a very effective measure.

Chris

@ Natalie (and others): you’re right, there are plenty of things people shouldn’t be doing while driving, but studies at the University of Utah (there’s your data for your “informed decision,” Pablo”) show that something about the brain can’t carry on a telephone conversation and properly manage a moving vehicle at the same time. And it’s not because you’re talking or only using one hand: it’s about the way the brain processes telephone-based communication.

Their studies show that listening to the radio or having a conversation with the passenger in the seat next to you simply do not impair like talking on a cell phone – even if you’re using a hands-free headset. Google the University of Utah studies if you want more info.

So I’m all for a ban on phone chatting while driving – and it has *nothing* to do with being uninformed or wanting to restrict freedoms. I suppose we should let people legally drive drunk too?

NatalieMac

There are lots of things that distract people while driving. I’ve seen other drivers reading newspapers, eating cereal from a bowl with a spoon (yes that requires both hands), knitting (again, both hands), putting on makeup, etc. etc. Add the radio, CD player, MP3 player, friends in the car to chat with, and there are so many potential distractions it seems worthless to try and slowly outlaw them one at a time.

I couldn’t believe the signs up around the freeways here in California telling us that as of January 1, texting while driving was illegal? Really? It was *legal* before that?

Reckless driving and endangerment are already against the law – just use those to stop people who are being unsafe no matter what the reason.

Monda

NO WAY! Thank you Piablo & David & Glenn for your voices of reason. Cell phones just push the bad drivers over the edge into accidents. Next they will ban food, or talking passengers, and will require a camera in your car to enforce it. Why don’t they ban billboards? Those are distracting too. Good drivers shouldn’t be punished because of bad drivers. Where’s the logic? What then of all the other health-related ills? Why don’t they spend the money to fund an auto-pilot instead? No more nanny state infringements please!!! Keep that crap in the UK!

Fernando

Just so you know, here in Brazil it’s illegal, unless you use a hands-free setup.

Chris

Perhaps they could just outlaw reckless driving. Oh wait…it already is!

Glenn Heydolph

While trying to make the road a safer place is admirable, I disagree targeting one distraction when many other are causes as well. The NHTSA has claimed for a long time that playing with the radio, eating, or reading is a major distraction leading to accidents. In addition their latest study FAQ mentions that talking to someone in your own car is equally risky. Granted they can alert you to dangers as well, but just because something is risky doesn’t mean it should be banned.

In my opinion, if will go so far as banning one “distraction”, should there be no radio, food, passengers or anything else that can be perceived as a “distraction”? If its fair to ban one “distraction” why not ban them all?

jake

the only thing i disagree with here is texting while driving, that is just horribly dangerous

David Eisert

There are already wreckless driving laws. Enforce those laws and let those that are responsible enough to talk, type, and dial phones while driving be FREE to do so. Officers already have enforceable laws to protect the public from dangerous individuals. Do we need more regulation? Save the financial burden of passing the law and put more cops on the road to enforce the laws we already have.

Piablo

Look at everyone asking for ban! Hahaha, ‘take away my freedoms!!’ It’s too bad. Act first, ask questions later… Why hasn’t anyone asked for any additional statistical data to help make a more informed decision? How about something to the effect of age vs. accidents caused by phone distraction? I’d be real curious to see how many of these culprits are simply inexperienced teens. So what are the causes for the other 94% of accidents? Is using a phone the #1 cause at 6%??

It amazes me every time to see how quick people are to ban something because they don’t like what the other guy is doing. Eventually we all will be the other guy.

Eric S. Mueller

In New Jersey, it’s illegal to talk on the phone while driving without a hands-free device. Nobody obeys the law. I have no knowledge if it’s ever been enforced or not. I see people driving around holding phones to their ears all the time.

mikewoodhouse

In the UK, talking on a cell phone while driving is only legal if a hands-free set is used. I think texting (really? good grief!) would have been covered under dangerous driving or driving without due care and attention.

wraith808

No. Taking the devil’s advocate position, there are ways that talking on the cell phone can be made safe, and those way should be enforced and taught. Putting on a seat belt or not drinking and driving are different things from taking away advances that have been made because some abuse the privilege. And from someone that sits in traffic for over an hour a day, the ability to actually get things done instead of wasting that hour is a boon. Do I have serious conversations that take a lot of time and attention? No. But short calls that would take away from time at work or home are fair game.

freelancewriter

Yes. People survived without talking on cell phones while driving in the past. Surely it can be done again.

The risks are noteworthy – causing an accident and potentially killing people.

Chatting with a friend while driving to their house isn’t that important. If it is, pull over and talk.

Emergency situation? Tell the caller you’re going to pull over, and talk to them after you do. If someone is telling you that your best friend died, while driving is probably not a good time to get that news, anyway. Pull over.

Chris

Here in the province of Nova Scotia, it is illegal to use a handheld phone while driving, though it’s still perfectly legal to use a hands-free device. Other provinces are looking at the same.

It’s all well and good to have legislation to prevent people from doing things that are dangerous. I agree with them. The trouble is enforcing those laws. As a quick glance around an intersection here in my city tells me, there are many who just don’t care. As someone who walks everywhere, it seems my life – or my physical well-being at least – is far less important than a phone call. It’s that attitude that has to change.

Chris

Yes, yes, a thousand times YES! I can often tell from 50 yards away when someone is driving while talking on a cell phone. Let’s face it – these two tasks are simply not compatible.

And for those of you who insist you are excellent drivers while chatting on the cell, trust me – you’re not.

Kat

I think your right that people shouln’t text or talk on the phone while driving cuz people can wreck and get hurt or maybe even killed so I so agree with you!!!!!!!

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