1. No matter how many other distracting things we've seen people do over the years as we drive around, they do not excuse our turning a blind eye to this new and rather pervasive threat to our mutual safety. I believe that those who argue how dangerous hamburger-eaters are as a means of justifying drivers' cell phone use are trying to rationalize their own driving-on-the-phone behavior. I, too, have occasionally seen someone reading a book or eating a bowl of cereal while driving - maybe once every couple of months. And yes, those actions are certainly dangerous. But I am forced to contend with cell-phone-talking drivers on a daily basis now. As often as not I can identify them by the lurching or weaving of their vehicles, long before I ever see the drivers. Can you honestly claim that these actions are not dangerous? They are, after all, often the same clues we look for in a DWI case to establish the operator's inability to drive safely.
2. Yes, it is a common-sense issue, but if we weren't going to legislate against things that people should have the sense to not do, our codes would be a whole lot thinner. I do think that a driver who intentionally concentrates on his driving while talking on a phone CAN overcome the distraction element - but unfortunately the casualness with which we all use these phones seems to give us a false sense of security while driving. I wouldn't give them the benefit of the doubt... not where my safety is concerned.
3. Yes, police officers use MDT's as well as two-way radios, radar units, emergency lights and sirens while driving. The difference is that they are professional drivers. They are trained, and paid, to do those things for a living. We also allow them to drive at speeds above the posted limits, to drive against traffic when needed, to drive with their lights off, to decide when and where to block traffic, and to interrupt and direct the flow of vehicle traffic when needed in order to do their jobs. Should we allow all drivers to do these things because the police are trained to do them?
4. There are in fact a number of studies which have attempted to quantify the level of distraction involved in cell phone use by drivers, and have tried to distinguish between handheld and hands-free phone use. The results all seem to indicate that the distraction comes from the conversation itself as much as from finding / dialing the phone. There is no measurable difference in the slowed reaction times and the number of missed traffic signals between those talking while holding the phones and those using hands-free phones. I would submit that while driving with one hand is not a safe practice, the true danger from cell phone drivers is caused by their distraction and lack of attention to their driving. Neither of those will be affected by the means of holding the telephone.
We need to outlaw the use of phones while driving no matter what the means of conversing. I agree with John - the devices are primarily used for convenience (or killing boredom) rather than urgent communications 99% of the time anyway. I sure don't want to wind up hospitalized (or worse) because some fool is asking her spouse whether to bring home Taco Bell or KFC food for dinner when she loses control of her SUV.
Figured that would get your attention. Check this out:
Cell phones aren't so bad.
Maybe we need a statute that says a person commits a serious felony if: (a) he knowingly threatens another with imminent bodily injury while using something (either the car in rush hour or the TV or both in combination) that in the manner of its use is capable of causing death or serious bodily injury, or (b) recklessly causes serious bodily injury to another. Such a statute would seem to address the Big Mac-cell phone-TV (stupidity)problem. At least I would hope some sets of jurors might unanimously agree.
Surely you could convince at least six people this type conduct (i.e., the Philly glow variety, if not some of the others described)placed others in imminent danger of serious bodily injury as talked about in Sec. 22.05(a), P.C.
By the way, though the lawsuit mentioned at the start of this thread may be the first to go to trial because there is a dispute about whether the lawyer was engaged in a business call at the time, several others have already been settled--for millions of dollars. That seems like a high price for convenience.
The Austin American Statesman reports progress on a bill:
TDCAA is tracking House Bill 281 (by Rep. Paul Moreno, D-El Paso) on our "Bills to Watch" list, which you can find on the Legislative Page.
As with certain other topics, this one was probably best left alone (allowed to die). But, I simply could not resist the temptation to point out the matter has now been authoritatively resolved. As reported by the AP: "A study by the California Highway Patrol found that cell phones were responsible for more distracted-driving accidents than eating, smoking, kids, pets and personal hygiene combined." I am sure this was a very scientific and thorough study and should lay the matter to rest. At least the California Assembly seemed to think so.
Just check back in 2 years. There will be more studies and likely a juicy wreck as an example.
I can see it now - a citizen spots a dangerously intoxicated driver, dials 911 and follows him while talking the police into an position to stop the intoxicated driver.
Upon trial of the D.W.I. - Motion to exclude everything - Article 38.23 - all evidence unlawfully obtained ... chaos ... a wailing of women ...
Certainly there should be an emergency exception if dialing 911! That would be easy to document if the citizen were charged with "unlawfully telephoning" ... (and this old East Texas boy needs to advocate coming up with a different name for the offense as "unlawful telephoning" is permanently associated in my mind with a way to get a lot of catfish very quickly - See the Parks and Wildlife code if you don't know what "telephoning for fish" constitutes).
[This message was edited by Stephen Hughes on 06-05-03 at .]
The NTSA agrees that we should take cell phones out of the hands of kids who are driving. Check out the story: Houston Chronicle.
Well, Stephen, it's more of a challenge than it used to be. You see with the influx of retirees moving out to the lakes, it's hard to find a secluded spot -- and with a say, 9-bar telephone, you have to crank real fast to get enough juice, the harder you crank, the louder the noise, the louder the noise, the nosier the neighbors. Not talking about me of course, although I have found that cell phones don't work on catfish unless you hit one on the head with a Nokia.
A.P. - Hitting them on the head with a Nokia? Have you read the posts on cruelty to animals?
We have a body of literature on electrocution as a lawful method of "putting them down" and not violating the 8th Amendment - capital litigation can produce wonderful opinions, but "beating them to death" - even with a high dollar cell phone????
Oh, sure, beating them to death does provide certain implications, but a blow to the head is the accepted practice in many arenas (not rodeo arenas) -- have you ever seen how they get rabbits into the freezer? What about those talented outdoors types who dispatch snakes with a well-placed limb to the noggin? Why, I've even seen fishermen whack sharks before putting them in the boat -- I, I mean a friend of mine, feels safer standing back and setting off a .44 hollow point at the big ones, though.
I told you someone would file the lawsuit, but so far car crashes are not yet the fault of the cell phone company. Read the story.
Local Woman Dies Of Lost Cell Phone
Catherine Polk, 24, died at a local Starbucks Monday afternoon, due to complications resulting from the tragic loss of her cell phone. "It was horrible. Cathy didn't have any of her numbers written down anywhere else, and she was waiting on a call about last-minute tickets for a concert," said best friend Melissa Barreth, who was with Polk when she first discovered that her Cingular V400 quad band/GSM cell phone was not in her purse. "We tried everything to find it, but in the end, there was nothing we could do." The coroner's report confirmed that Polk died of a sudden lack of wireless service.
DC Law restricts cell phones in cars
Thanks for the tip, Markus -- I'll try not to get caught for DWT (driving while talking) while I'm out here in DC ...
Or perhaps just not cell-talking at all while driving is the way to go. That way you can't get caught! (And you might not have a horrendous accident in another jurisdiction, either.)
DC's "Distracted Driving Safety Act" doesn't just ban talking on hand-held cell phones, it also forbids drivers from reading, writing, grooming, or "engaging in any other activity which causes distractions," such as turning around to whack your unruly kids sitting in the backseat, I suppose.
Just think of all the new forms of "rolling probable cause" they've created ...
As my daughter says, Sweet.
Jury Is Still Out on Driver-Cellphone Laws
By COURTNEY C. RADSCH
WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 - Christina Arnold was pulled over by a Washington police officer last summer for driving while talking on her cellphone without a hands-free device. Hoping to avoid a $100 ticket, Ms. Arnold explained to the officer that she had an important call from her daughter's school and even offered to show him her telephone record. He declined, she said, and she managed to get off with a warning.
But thousands of other drivers in Washington have not been as lucky.
Only the District of Columbia, New York State and New Jersey have passed legislation banning the use of hand-held cellphones while driving, and they have issued more than 400,000 tickets and warnings since New York enacted the first such law, in 2001.
In Washington and New York, the hands-free law is a primary violation, meaning the driver can be pulled over just for that violation, whereas in New Jersey it is a secondary offense, which means the driver must be stopped for another offense.
Several other states are considering bans on driving while holding a cellphone, including Maryland, which, after a spate of fatal accidents involving teenage drivers, may prohibit youthful drivers from using cellphones.
In Washington, law enforcement officials can issue either a warning ticket or a $100 citation. If a cited driver takes a hands-free device to adjudication, the fine is waived, but that works only once.
Although Ms. Arnold, 29, did not get an official warning, she took the advice of the officer who stopped her and bought a hands-free device.
"It cost only about $59 for the headset, which is good insurance against any $100 tickets," said Ms. Arnold, who works for a nongovernmental organization. "That's a definite deterrent never to talk on my phone again."
The Washington police have been issuing about 600 tickets and 250 warnings each month since the ordinance was enacted last August. New York has issued more than 360,000 tickets since December 2001, and the annual total has increased each year. About 60 percent of the tickets were issued in New York City.
But with cellphone-related incidents making up only a small percentage of motor vehicle accidents, even government officials wonder why this particular behavior was chosen for a law, since studies have shown that hands-free and hand-held cellphones are equally distracting.
"We've evaluated and come to the conclusion that hands-free use is just as risky or perhaps riskier than hand-held phones because it's the cognitive distraction that can compromise driving," said Rae Tyson, a spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Mr. Tyson said research from within his agency and outside it, along with driving simulations, found that it was the talking on a cellphone while driving that was distracting, and that therefore cellphones should be used only in emergencies.
Even AAA of America, the automobile organization that helped draft Washington's ordinance, believes the real issue is cellphones, in general, which cause distracted driving, said John B. Townsend II, manager of public and government relations for AAA Mid-Atlantic.
Mr. Townsend cited a AAA analysis of 50 traffic deaths over a fixed period in the Washington area that found only 2 that possibly involved cellphone use. "In the cosmic scheme of things, it's not just the cellphone," he said. "We would not come right out and support a ban on hand-held cell phones. That's not the issue. The real issue is distracted drivers."
But the laws could be in response to people's fears rather than hard evidence, Mr. Townsend said. A survey by AAA Mid-Atlantic showed that 63 percent of motorists favored a ban on driving with hand-held cellphones (76 percent in Washington), with those favoring bans directed at new teenage drivers rising to 79 percent. Results of the survey, culled from 1,300 interviews in the Mid-Atlantic area in December 2003, also showed that 71 percent of drivers felt distracted using a cellphone.
But John Walls, the vice president of public affairs of CTIA, the Wireless Association, a trade organization representing wireless interests, said it was unfair and unnecessary to create hands-free laws.
"We question the need for a law singling out behavior that apparently is pretty far down the pecking order of accidents in the first place," Mr. Walls said. He cited statistics showing that before the New York law was enacted, fewer than one-hundredth of 1 percent of New York City accidents were related to cellphones.
But a spokesman for the New York Department of Motor Vehicles, Joseph Picchi, said that he thought the law was having an impact but that the department was still compiling statistics. A report is due by the end of 2005.
Mr. Picchi pointed out that the law requiring seat belts in automobiles had taken years to catch on but now had a compliance rate of 85 percent.
"Cellphones are one of the bigger distractions while driving," Mr. Picchi said.
Lt. Byron Hope, traffic safety coordinator for the Washington Metropolitan Police Department, said that it was too early to judge the effectiveness of the ordinance, but that it made people aware of their driving habits.
"There had to be some instances where people's driving was so bad that this law was sparked," Lieutenant Hope said. "We're not saying you can't talk on your cellphone. We just ask people to use some discretion."
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