New cell safety bill: a good start
Posted Sept. 29, 2006

This month California became the fifth state to approve legislation that will limit cell phone use while driving.

Senate Bill 1613, effective July 2008, will prohibit holding a cell phone while driving, though it will not prohibit talking on a speaker phone, a headset or any other device which is going to keep both hands free for steering at all times.

We at the Campus Times believe this is a step forward, although its difficult to say how effective this new law is actually going to be.

A similar law was implemented in New York in 2001. According to the Insurance Institute for safety, it reduced the number of people talking on the phone from 2.3 percent to 1.1 percent within the first year. However, by March 2003, 2.1 percent of drivers were back to talking and driving.

What’s to say the same will not happen here.

There are two things Californians love: their cars and their phones, and if we can combine them even better.

We chat on the phone in traffic, in the carpool lane, at the red light; we are basically willing to talk on the phone anywhere we can.

Unsafe, though it may be.

Studies conducted by the California Highway Patrol and the University of Utah, among others, have shown that talking on the phone while driving causes a major distraction and is the factor in about one in 20 car accidents in the United States.

Studies have also shown that the main distraction is not necessarily holding the phone. It is the conversation you are having with the person on the other end of the line.

If this is the case, then this bill wouldn’t help in eliminating the biggest problem. But if this is true, then does that mean that we are only driving safely when we are by ourselves? Hardly.

It just means that for some reason when we drive and talk on the phone, we tend to pay more attention to the person talking in our ear than to the car in front of us.

While this bill may not help us concentrate better it will definitely help improve our attention to steering since we will be able to keep both hands on the wheel.              

According to State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, the author of the bill, both hands on the wheel means better control of the car.

However, not everyone drives with both hands on the wheel.

Even if we are not talking on the phone, we might be changing gears, trying to change the radio station or getting a hold of the map on the passenger’s seat.

The “Hang-up and drive” bill is a good start, but maybe it should go further.

We want people to concentrate better and pay more attention as they drive.

Forcing us to have both hands free will not address the concentration issues that undoubtedly lead to many phone-related accidents.

The law will not be implemented until July 1, 2008. After that, talking into a hand-held phone while driving will cost you a relatively small fine – $20.

And if you do it a second time they’ll fine you $50.

At least we are addressing the issue.

It’s a slow beginning, but it’s a beginning nevertheless.

Thomas R. Buckley, longtime justice at Dannemora, N.Y., said, “I just follow my own common sense. And the hell with the law.”

Here at the Campus Times our common sense is telling us that driving while talking on the phone is unsafe; and we wouldn’t want anyone to do it; even if it were not a law.

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