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Posted by on Jul 31, 2009 in Safety | 7 comments

Contrast and Compare

no_cell_phones_allowedtwo newspaper stories published less than a year apart by the same newspaper because they happened in the same area.

Cell phone use cited in death

Cell phone cited in cyclist’s death

And in other news:

I am certain that everyone will be startled to hear that Text Messaging And Driving Are Hazardous To Your Health: Study

Less surprising is that Congress is for sale and the NHTSA knows it:

U.S. Withheld Data on Risks of Distracted Driving

and that industry is pushing back in the Pennsylvania legislature against a city ordinance.

Pushing back on cell limits

By Bill Green

As with cigarettes and cancer, we can no longer deny the link between traffic accidents and cell-phone use while driving. Although study after study has shown a distracted driver is a dangerous driver, most state governments – including Pennsylvania’s – have failed to regulate this practice.

Recognizing the risk, Philadelphia’s government took action. Last spring, City Council unanimously passed a ban on the use of handheld devices while driving or bicycling.

A recent New York Times series cited the very studies City Council considered. One study demonstrated that a driver using a mobile phone was as distracted as a drunk driver. Another determined that drivers dialing phones are four times more likely to cause a crash. Yet another found that drivers sending text messages are 23 times more likely to cause an accident. The upshot is clear: Drivers using handheld devices pose a danger to other drivers, pedestrians, and themselves.

In Philadelphia, we made dialing, talking, texting, and even just holding a mobile device while driving a primary offense, meaning police can stop and cite drivers for these violations alone. However, as you read this, lobbyists for the cell-phone industry are pushing Pennsylvania’s General Assembly to undo these protections.

The legislature is considering a ban on texting while driving that, although it’s a step in the right direction, does not go far enough. It would let drivers dial numbers, the most distracting part of making a call. It would make texting while driving only a secondary offense, meaning a driver could be pulled over for it only if violating another law. And it would preempt Philadelphia’s more comprehensive law.

As the tobacco industry did, the cell-phone industry is making decisions based on its bottom line – decisions that have and will cost lives. Its lobbying has been extraordinarily successful: As the Times reported, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration withheld data demonstrating the dangers of cell-phone use while driving.

We are paying a deadly price – at least 300,000 accidents and 26,000 fatalities to date – for the failure to end this practice. Citizens – the people endangered by the lack of political courage on this issue at the state and federal levels – should urge their legislators to preserve Philadelphia’s law and pass an aggressive statewide measure before more people are injured or killed.

7 Comments

  1. Eric: Do you know if any of the states or cities (like NY) that placed a ban on using cellphones or texting while driving — have any of those places seen a decrease in crashes? (I don’t want to use the word accident!!)

    I would support such a ban.

  2. Not only are these ordinances unenforceable, they are redundant. There are plenty of laws that can be applied to distracted motoring.

    Can one legally drive in a reckless manner?

    For example, North Carolina’s statute says;

    “Sec. 20-140. Reckless driving.
    (a) Any person who drives any vehicle upon a highway or any public vehicular area carelessly and heedlessly in willful or wanton disregard of the rights or safety of others shall be guilty of reckless driving.
    (b) Any person who drives any vehicle upon a highway or any public vehicular area without due caution and circumspection and at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger or be likely to endanger any person or property shall be guilty of reckless driving ”

    Texas law;
    “Sec. 545.401. RECKLESS DRIVING; OFFENSE.
    (a) A person commits an offense if the person drives a vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.”

    To my knowledge, every state has similar laws and codes. Why are they not sufficient to apply to texting?

    I will answer my own question. It is because operating a motor vehicle on public roads has become such a common everyday event that the magnitude of the responsibility it entails and the grave potential for harm to persons and property has been diminished in the publics mind. There is no sense of shame or scandal for drivers even when major wrecks result from their irresponsible behavior.

    Reckless driving ordinances are not employed because of Americans cavalier attitudes toward driving.

  3. Not enough data.
    And “No state completely bans all types of cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) for all drivers, but many prohibit cell phone use by certain segments of the population.”

    http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/cellphone_laws.html

    Almost every time I see a driver acting oddly, such as driving 30 MPH on the interstate, I look twice and I see a cell phone.

  4. ChipSeal said:

    operating a motor vehicle on public roads has become such a common everyday event that the magnitude of the responsibility it entails and the grave potential for harm to persons and property has been diminished in the public’s mind. There is no sense of shame or scandal for drivers even when major wrecks result from their irresponsible behavior.

    Reckless driving ordinances are not employed because of American’s cavalier attitudes toward driving.

    Say it often. Say it loud. I have nothing to add, but emphasis ;-)

  5. Ah heck, I was rushed to post it and I did not proof read my post properly. I beg all readers forgiveness and ask that they imagine the words “publics” and “Americans” were spelled public’s and American’s respectively. Thank you all. (Sigh)

  6. The bar for “reckless driving” is set much higher than “careless driving.” Key words there are “willful and wanton.”

    Until and unless you can convince people grabbing for a purse with a ringing cell phone equals “willful and wanton” the cases will never succeed. Next step down is careless driving which is a small fine and 4 points.

    If you don’t think that a cell phone law is enforceable, then a seat belt law would be about the same. Florida just made it’s seatbelt law “primary.”
    http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/orl-bk-casselberry-seat-belt-crackdown-072009,0,4716146.story
    http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/orl-bk-new-seat-belt-law-070609,0,488719.story

    It’s been my experience that traffic laws are as enforceable as law enforcement wants to make them.

  7. Featured on WESH2 site:
    http://www.wesh.com/news/21576887/detail.html

    Polk Man Charged in Texting Related Accident

    ….”Investigators said Horne tried to stop before hitting Meija, leaving 54 feet of skid marks.”

    54 feet of skid marks qualifies an “F” for effort!