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Cell Phone Bans While Driving

Erie (where I live) just enacted a cell phone ban that requires handsfree operation (or no operation) of cell phones while driving. It's a secondary offense, meaning that a cop can't pull you over just for the use of a cell phone while driving, but I imagine that if they want to make an example out of you or are having a bad day they'll find a reason to pull you over and tack on the cell phone penalty as well.

The question I have is this: why are cell phones a target? Frankly, I'm probably less distracted talking on a cell phone than I am the times I've eaten, played with a GPS, fiddled with the radio, tried to get a rock out of my shoe, drank a can or bottle of Coke, looked in the back seat to make sure I hadn't forgotten my {camera, hockey skates, golf club, groceries, etc.}, and so on. I've seen people reading maps and even newspapers and books while driving, yet these people are free to continue doing so without any worries whatsoever.

Is the cell phone industry behind these bills? Nobody's going to drop their cell phones or even their calling plans because they can't talk in the car, but cell phone companies and accessory makers can sell a whole bunch of $100+ Bluetooth headsets.

Or is it just politicians doing their usual bullcrap?

And seeing as how it's law, now: any recommendations for Bluetooth headsets for the iPhone? Ideally something that's easy to use and charge.

12 Responses to "Cell Phone Bans While Driving"

  1. Using a cell phone whilst driving has been illegal in the UK for a number of years now. On a recent trip to Florida, I was actually amazed that it was legal.

    Whilst cell phone usage is explicitly illegal, and the other examples you gave aren't, the police can, in the UK at least, pick you up for any of them if they feel you aren't driving with "Due care and attention".

    I would assume that there was a similar law in the US that would mean that if you were to be perceived as driving inadequately because you were eating, or reading, then the police would pull you over and give you a ticket.

  2. s/Or is it/it is/

    FTFY.

    But seriously, anti-cellphone driving laws are just the latest fear thing.
    The news media points and makes gestures about the "latest scary thing"(tm).
    The politicans want to make legislation because, hey, more legislation, that has to be good, right? Plus it looks good on the campaign trail.
    "My opponent voted AGAINST the no cell phone while driving bill, therefore he wants your teenagers to drive while talking on cell phones accientally driving over puppies and kittens! He is a Bad Man(TM)"

    Again, seriously though, we already have laws on the books that cover driving while distracted, its called reckless driving and you can get a ticket for that too. Its not even a secondary offence and unlike most states cellphone driving laws it carries points! Anything beyond this is just overlegislation and politicking.

  3. I don't know about Erie, but where i live, i constantly see morons texting and nearly hitting curbs, or swerving into my lane because they can't pay attention. ...and every time some idiot is doing something retarded on the road, it almost always turns out that they're on a mobile.

    I, personally, don't think we need specific laws against mobile phones, but i am fine with police being more strict about severely distracted drivers. (whether it's an iPhone or a crossword puzzle, i don't really care.) If you can drive while talking on the phone, then fine, i don't see a problem. ...the problem is that *everyone* thinks they're fantastic drivers. It kind of puts the cops in a crappy position of saying "I know you think you were driving awesomely, but you weren't." ...giving the po's a clear-cut definition probably simplifies it a lot.

    As far as a decent hands-free headset, it might not be for everyone, but i just use the headphones that came with my iPhone. I can use it for listening to podcasts, making and receiving calls, controlling volume, pause, play, skipping forward and back, and it never needs charging. works awesome for me. ...oh, and it's covered under the 1 year manufacturer's warrantee, so if they get blown, Apple will give me another set for free. 🙂 (though they always try to give me the old ones that don't have volume control, but they're happy to give me the better ones when i point out it's for a 3GS.)

    yeesh, sorry i always write a freaking thesis. 😛

  4. Jeff Foster said on January 10, 2010:

    As far as a decent hands-free headset, it might not be for everyone, but i just use the headphones that came with my iPhone. I can use it for listening to podcasts, making and receiving calls, controlling volume, pause, play, skipping forward and back, and it never needs charging. works awesome for me. ...oh, and it's covered under the 1 year manufacturer's warrantee, so if they get blown, Apple will give me another set for free. 🙂 (though they always try to give me the old ones that don't have volume control, but they're happy to give me the better ones when i point out it's for a 3GS.)

    It might be different there, but where I live you aren't allowed to have headphones on while driving.

  5. Not sure about the rules in your area but some jurisdictions do have driving laws that mean you can be ticketed for playing with the radio, gps etc - essentially a driving while distracted violation. In BC this rule is definitely enforced.

    The cellphone rule is just a variation of it and while using a headset doesn't make one any less likely to get in an accident, it is easiest to enforce the rule of using the phone itself. Eventually I'd expect them to start targeting a broader range of devices and activities - the evidence for a ban on such distraction is pretty cut and dry (it's roughly equivalent to driving above the blood alcohol limit).

    We've just launched the same rule in BC but it's not a secondary violation, it's a primary.

  6. Just a followup on this - some highlights of the BC specific cellphone law:

    http://www.behindtheblueline.ca/blog/blueline/2010/01/06/cell-phones-and-driving/

    It includes devices that can accept email other "prescribed electronic devices" - I'm guessing that's refers to GPS'.

    As for the original question about BT headsets, the Jawbone seems to get the highest rating no matter what site you read reviews from. The Plantronics 875 seems to be a near equal - my g/f got one for me this Xmas, haven't hooked it up yet but it definitely looks and feels better than the cheaper ones.

  7. Here in the UK its illegal to touch a cell phone while driving.

    I witnessed a crash where a woman playing with a cell phone exited a roundabout and drove head-on into an on-coming car, collapsing the engine into the drivers legs. I had to calm the screaming guy down while waiting for the fire brigade to come cut him out.
    He didn't walk for 6+ months.

    Don't touch your phone while driving.

  8. New York Times, July 2009: U.S. Withheld Data on Risks of Distracted Driving

    The researchers also shelved a draft letter they had prepared for Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta to send, warning states that hands-free laws might not solve the problem.

    That letter said that hands-free headsets did not eliminate the serious accident risk. The reason: a cellphone conversation itself, not just holding the phone, takes drivers’ focus off the road, studies showed.

    The research mirrors other studies about the dangers of multitasking behind the wheel. Research shows that motorists talking on a phone are four times as likely to crash as other drivers, and are as likely to cause an accident as someone with a .08 blood alcohol content.

    Seattle recently enacted a "handsfree only" law -- but like the law you've mentioned, it's a secondary offense only. I'm disgusted by the failure to give this law any real teeth, as, unsurprisingly, it's routinely ignored by the majority of drivers on the road, not a few of whom have nearly hit me or others because they were yammering away and not paying attention to the road.

  9. Actually, Im GLAD this happening. I cant even begin to count the number of times I've been cut off, almost hit, etc. because some idiot is gabbing away on their cellphone (nor am I alone in that part either though I've gotten better switching to speakerphone or my bluetooth headset) because it is a distraction. 1.) Because you now only have one hand free to handle the wheel and lets face it, you can do it but most drivers are idiots and barely capable of driving an RC vehicle let alone a 4000lb death machine 2.) Most people canNOT multi-task. Now you have to handle one hand on the wheel, one hand holding a phone, part of your brain scanning traffic and the other part combining the two seperate hands moving (patting your head and rubbing your belly fail?) PLUS having a conversation.

    So frankly, yes, ticket the people who dont go hands free. Even that is far more than most of the public can handle. Though I'd wish for more even enforcement of the laws that are currently on the books in regards to traffic laws but hey...take what you can get

  10. Not a political thing, just common sense. When you are lost or looking for an address, or searching on unfamiliar streets whilst driving your car, why do you turn down the radio?
    You do it because you can not process extraneous input and still focus on the purpose of your trip. Cell phones are that extraneous input. You can not operate your car as safely or with due attention while using one. Check out Brainmagic.com. You will learn something.

  11. [...] he sounded off on the new cell phone ban for drivers in the City of Erie. In his post “Cell Phone Bans While Driving,” Erik describes his history of let’s say, “active” driving:The question I [...]


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