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Thursday, June 02, 2005
States limit cell use by drivers - Yahoo! News: "State lawmakers across the USA are cracking down on distracted driving as research increasingly documents the perils of inattentiveness behind the wheel.
State lawmakers across the USA are cracking down on distracted driving as research increasingly documents the perils of inattentiveness behind the wheel.
Colorado, Delaware, Maryland and Tennessee banned cell phone use by young drivers this year. A similar ban approved last week by Illinois legislators awaits the governor's signature. This year, 37 states have debated new laws restricting drivers' use of cell phones, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The rush comes as research at the University of Minnesota and the University of Utah concludes that drivers talking on cell phones or fiddling with the car radio sometimes perform as poorly as drunken drivers.
New electronic devices that allow drivers to surf the Internet, send and receive e-mail, get online directions or watch DVDs may create even more distractions because they are more "cognitively engaging," says David Strayer, a University of Utah psychology professor who studies distracted driving.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that distracted driving is a factor in 25% of all traffic accidents reported to police, spokeswoman Liz Neblett says. NHTSA says 8% of drivers are using cell phones at any moment during daylight.
Chicago banned all drivers from using hand-held cell phones last month. New York enacted the first such state law in 2001; New Jersey and Washington, D.C., have similar bans. Other state actions:
* Nevada stiffened penalties for drivers who kill someone while using cell phones, putting on makeup or eating.
* Virginia banned pornographic videos in vehicles if they can be seen by people outside the auto.
* Several states, including Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi, have tried to prevent a crazy-quilt of regulations by prohibiting local governments from banning cell phones for drivers.
Cell phone bans have been difficult to enact in most states. The cell phone industry and the non-profit association that represents state highway agencies question the effectiveness of such measures. (Related story: Distracted-driver debate intensifies)
"You can't have a law for every distracting behavior behind the wheel," says Jonathan Adkins, spokesman for the Governors Highway Safety Association. "You're not going to ban eating or talking to your kids."
More controls are needed, some law enforcement officials say.
"Distracted driving is a deadly business," says Ken Easterling, chief prosecutor in Kenton County, Ky. He is handling the case of an 18-year-old man charged with hitting and killing a 2½-year-old boy while he was allegedly text-messaging and driving without headlights. "It's time nationally we got some standards, so we don't continue to have loss of life," Easterling says.
It's about time something was done. You can't even compare it to eating or talking to your kids. It's not the same thing. I see way more people driving dangerously, swirving, etc. because they're on the phone than because they're eating, applying make-up or yelling at their kids.
Can you honestly say you think its wise or safe to drive and talk on your cell phone? Are you confident in saying your attention is 100% on the road? Could you say tell that to the families of Nhiem Jennings and Alexis Kiles?