Monday, January 12, 2009

National Safety Council calls for total cell phone ban for drivers

Drivers talking on cell phones are as impaired as legally drunk drivers, according to a University of Utah study. Even using hands-free devices doesn’t significant reduce the impairment. Other activities, like “Gossip Girl”-style text-messaging while driving, add to the risk.

The study was published July 29, 2006, and the story on the University website is here.

This morning, MSNBC reprinted an AP story and the Today Show reported that The National Safety Council wants to ban all cell phone use when driving, link here. In early 2009, there are six states that ban hand-held cell phone devices: California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Utah and Washington — along with the District of Columbia. Washington DC is one of the strictest jurisdictions for enforcement of all traffic laws in the nation, with photo enforcement of speed and red lights,

In fact, NSC’s own press release is easy to find on the web, and here it is. To quote: “A study from the Harvard Center of Risk Analysis estimates that cell phone use while driving contributes to 6 percent of crashes, which equates to 636,000 crashes, 330,000 injuries, 12,000 serious injuries and 2,600 deaths each year.”

In a few areas (including Washington DC) there have been discussions of banning eating, coffee drinking, and other activities while driving.

Other jurisdictions have thought about raising the driver's license age, often 16, and phasing it in, with supervision and day use only at first. Back as far as the 1960s there were calls to raise licensing ages, in a world where farm kids learned to drive tractors and cars at 13 or 14 (in the WB's "Smallville", young Clark, who is supposed to be "legally" 14 in Season 1, is shown driving cars and farm equipment).

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