Archive for Thursday, September 22, 2005

Some call for banning drivers from cell phones

Officials concerned about enforcement

September 22, 2005


Rebecca Osladil, who works for a local radio station, spends a lot of time on her cell phone calling customers. Traffic safety commissioners will discuss outlawing cell phone usage while driving within Lawrence city limits.

Rebecca Osladil, who works for a local radio station, spends a lot of time on her cell phone calling customers. Traffic safety commissioners will discuss outlawing cell phone usage while driving within Lawrence city limits.

Driver's education class didn't teach Bob Lewis how to deal with this.

"I think the only time I have ever had a real close call in a car, it has been when some other motorist is paying more attention to their cell phone than to their driving," said Lewis, a Lawrence resident and retired Kansas University employee. "I felt like I had to do something partially in self-defense."

What Lewis did was complain to the city's Traffic Safety Commission. As a result, traffic safety commissioners will soon discuss a proposal to ban all drivers in the city limits from using a cell phone.

Lewis didn't propose a specific ordinance, but said he would like for a ban to also prohibit the use of hands-free or speaker cell phones because research shows they're just as dangerous.

"Driving really demands your total attention," Lewis said. "Your mind can't really be on another subject."

Growing trend

Several other communities and states agree. In 2001, New York banned cell phone use by drivers statewide. Since then, 10 other states and the District of Columbia have implemented some sort of cell phone ban - some prohibiting their use by all drivers and others putting phones off-limits only to novice drivers.

This week, the National Transportation Safety Board urged all states to ban novice drivers from using wireless phones.

David Strayer - a psychology professor at the University of Utah who has conducted more than 20 research studies on cell phones and driver safety - said the science behind the bans was solid.

"The risks are quite substantial," Strayer said, noting that many studies have found the risk of an accident increases fourfold when a driver is on a cell phone.

Sgt. Dan Ward, a spokesman with the Lawrence Police Department, doesn't have any formal study to fall back on, but he's pretty sure cell phone usage does cause a problem on Lawrence streets.

"I know there are a lot of drivers with a cell phone up to their ear," Ward said. "Any time you are trying to do something other than paying full attention to driving, it can cause an accident."

Questions arise

Several traffic safety commissioners on Wednesday said they wanted to learn more about the issue but worried the ordinance could be difficult to enforce.

"There's no reason to do it if you can't enforce it," said Carol Bowen, a traffic safety commissioner. "If you can't enforce it, that would just create frustration."

Ward said enforcement would rely on police officers observing a driver using a cell phone, which he said was not much different from viewing a person running a traffic light.

A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that in the months after the implementation of the New York ban, the rate of drivers talking on cell phones fell from 2.3 percent to 1.1 percent. But one year later, the rate had risen back to 2.1 percent.

Danny Drungilas, another traffic safety commissioner, said the city might be able to consider other options. He suggested increasing the fines for any driver who was using a cell phone during an accident.

"Whatever we would do probably would be pretty controversial," Drungilas said.

A part of life

Driver reaction was mixed.

"I guess I would kind of agree with it because I know that when I do it, I'm a bit distracted," said Jeff Hansen, a Topeka resident who was in downtown. "If it would stop someone from running into me, I would be for it."

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Heather Lancaster, a Lawrence resident, said she thought any future ban wouldn't be taken very seriously by residents.

"But lots of things we do aren't good for us," Lancaster said.

Beverly Purcell, an agent with Lawrence-based Allen and Purcell Insurance, said the insurance industry was beginning to frown on cell phone usage by drivers. Strayer, the researcher, said he believed that cell phone usage may some day become a factor in how companies set insurance rates.

Purcell, though, said she thought the issue was a bit overblown.

"I don't think a cell phone creates any more of a problem than a billboard that is tough to read or a road sign that is not real well placed," Purcell said. "All of them require you to take your eyes off the road and divert your attention. I think these bans are a bit of a fad and people are just picking on cell phones."

The Traffic Safety Commission meets at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 3 at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets. Any ban would need ultimate approval from the Lawrence City Commission.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


Kyle Rohde 12 years, 5 months ago

Why ban cell phone driving? Why is that more dangerous then messing with a CD player, drinking/eating,, shaving, putting on makeup, tying a tie, dealing with your kids in the backseat, etc.? I've seen all those things being done and all are as dangerous as driving with a cell. Its a slippery slope and a very hard rule to enforce. Nope, not a good law to pass.

lacoov 12 years, 5 months ago

Thank Goodness!!! I'm tired of being a target while driving on K-10 by the other drivers who are too busy talking on their phones!!

Lowell Holmes 12 years, 5 months ago

I dont believe a ban would be enforcable. I cant imagine officers scanning cars looking for drivers with a phone to their ear. While I do believe that talking on the phone while driving is dangerous, I agree with rohdek that it isnt any worse than the other things people try to do while they are driving.

Dani Davey 12 years, 5 months ago

I agree with rohdek, people are just as dangerous when they are rockin out to the radio than when they are on the cell phone. And if it's the conversation part that worries people then we're also going to need to ban passengers.

and lacoov - the proposed law is within city limits only. You're still on your own on K-10

glockenspiel 12 years, 5 months ago

Oh, thank heavens, I was getting worried...Lawrence hasn't banned anything for a while...

Ragingbear 12 years, 5 months ago

I have had more near accidents, both on foot and in my vehicle, with cell phone drivers than any other demographic. And I rode around Florida for an entire summer. Not even the elderly were as bad as the cell phone drivers. They are about as bad as drunk drivers.

As for those people who claim things like CD, and radio distractions are just as bad, that may be the case. However, one does not have a 20 minute heated conversation with the radio station.

Jamesaust 12 years, 5 months ago

"Construction Zone" approach - if you are cited for causing an accident and there is evidence you were using a cellphone, the fine is doubled.

ladysilk 12 years, 5 months ago

Studies show that cell phone driving is way down on the list of distractions for drivers. If you look at NHTSA studies you will see that the number one distraction is eating and driving, second is the radio/CD, third is passengers.

avhjmlk 12 years, 5 months ago

How do they propose to warn non Lawrence residents of the ban when they drive through town? You can't post a sign saying "We ban cell phone use in cars in this city", because that's too much information to process as you drive past the sign (especially if you're talking on your cell phone).

MadAsHell 12 years, 5 months ago

What they really need to ban is female drivers with cell phones -- they are the real culprits. ;-)

hammysammy 12 years, 5 months ago

I commute every day, and the main problem I have is people going too slow in the passing lane, because either they don't know any better, or because they are out of it. On their own, no cell phones. In Lawrence or elsewhere, there are idiots on their phones, but it just isn't that big of a deal. It's just something else for people to complain about. Toddlers are a bigger distraction, trust me. Should mine be banned from the car?

whitetower 12 years, 5 months ago

rohdek's reply is a much better argument than Purcell's comment. I have never had a near miss with someone taking a turn while they were looking at a street sign or billboard but I have almost hit at least a half a dozen people that are on cell phones and don't bother looking before turning out in front of me.

Though I agree that cells may be no more dangerous than the other things rohdek listed, but that is hardly a justification; you just can't justify dumb with dumb. Even most of those issues will subside at intersections enough to make judgments, phone calls are obviously more important than traffic, noticeably at intersections.

There are some people with the wherewithal to use a phone and drive but whether high or low, new or experienced, some do not. They are dangerous.

Confrontation 12 years, 5 months ago

I hate driving anywhere near a cell phone user. I've been stuck behind them at red lights, and they are the last the realize when the light turns green. I've been cut-off on I-70 by someone who didn't have a full range of site due to the cell phone on her ear. I was rear-ended by an idiot JoCo brat who was on her cellphone. I get cut-off nearly every day by someone who can't judge their distance from my car because of cell phone distractions. The worse, by far, are the older adults on cells (who can't drive with or without them) and the soccer moms in their minivans who are in a rush to get to McDonald's. Seriously, ban cells and require IQ tests for driving. That would eliminate 90% of the people around here.

eotw33 12 years, 5 months ago

2 words - Bluetooth headsets. Try em people.

Curtis Lange 12 years, 5 months ago

They would probably enforce this like they do seat belt laws. If you're pulled over for another violation and they see you're on the phone; here's your ticket.

Staci Dark Simpson 12 years, 5 months ago

Ban this, ban that. Welcome to Lawrence, KS city of bans. That should be the towns new slogan. You know why there are so many more wrecks caused by cell phones? Because everyone has one!! Do the math people. Get off the "ban" wagon!! Move to a communist country if you want more rules

jstevens1979 12 years, 5 months ago

Why is it so hard to understand that while pointing a 2-6 thousand pound machine around in various directions and dealing with all of the distractions on the road like pedestrians and bicyclist and so on, you really dont need to add to that list by having a worthless conversation on your cell phone, or doing any of the stuff that you think you need to do while driving. Shave at home, eat at home, strap your kids in and tell them to shut up. Driving is a privilage not a requirment.

jstevens1979 12 years, 5 months ago

they shouldn't have to pass laws or ban certain things to get people to use common sense.

Sandra Willis 12 years, 5 months ago

aahh, Bowhunter, You sound a lot like my stepfather ...

Being on the phone and driving does need to be discouraged, for all.

bugmenot 12 years, 5 months ago

Spacystaci that is a very nice argument for a 5 year old, now shouldn't you be in school right now?

Richard Heckler 12 years, 5 months ago

Making sure you are dialing the right number and/or punching the right buttons is not quite like sticking a CD in the slot. Last week a woman on a cell phone stopped at 15th and New Hampshire(she had the stop sign) decided to pull out in front of myself and a vehicle coming from the other direction as if nothing else was on the planet. Some people cannot talk on a phone and drive at the same time...too many. K10 is way too much fun in that respect.

Personally I've had two instances where potentially I could have dropped the ball. No more phone talk for me while driving. Let's face it very few things are that important.

hammysammy 12 years, 5 months ago

Maybe if the public transportation systems, and commuter routes were more reliable, predictable, and well, just there...then perhaps people wouldn't feel it necessary to conduct so much other business in their vehicles, why doesn't the city focus on that? Also, "strap the kids in and tell them to shup up?" Yeah that works.

loboda 12 years, 5 months ago

I have just moved back to Florida (why I don't know). It used to be you had to watch out for the elderly people. Now it seems to be the younger ones (teens) on or off cellphones in their cars or just anyone using their cellphones in their cars. I have been guilty of talking on the cellphone while driving, but it does take your attention away from driving. Now if my cellphone rings, I wait until I can pull off somewhere out of traffic and if the call was important, I will call them back, even if it is work related. It's not worth causing an accident to answer the silly thing while trying to drive. But a cellphone is handy to have with if your car breaks down, you can call for help, or call for help for someone else in an emergency. And yes the headsets are probably nice, but come on, we all could use a little "common sense" when driving, whether it is not talking on the cellphone or not trying to eat or drink something in the car. We are behind the wheel of a lethal weapon if we are not paying attention for whatever reason. Think about it.

Sigmund 12 years, 5 months ago

I'm for banning opposing any new bans, including this one.

gkcowell 12 years, 5 months ago

Make a law that you can only use cell phones while driving through a roundabout....

Snoop 12 years, 5 months ago

I would not be for the smoking ban, or for a ban on cell phones. However, the reason I am for both type of bans is because of the morons who have absolutely no consideration for the safety of well being for those around them. I have almost been hit 3 times by people on cell phones. It not only should be outlawed but stiff fines should be imposed. It just like smokers. I would not care if someone lit up occasionally in a bar but when these people are so inconsiderate as to chain smoke in a restaurant while people are dining that is what these various municipalities target with these ordinances. If there were any signs that people would become more responsible then this would not be an issue. But one life is not worth some idiot having a conversation about the latest school crush.

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 12 years, 5 months ago

To me, the function of government on the city level is to provide for clean air, clean water, good roads, and sewage disposal. Safe speed limits, food inspections at restaurants, good law enforcement, fire and medical services. Even enforcing the laws already on the books is almost impossible, we don't need any more. A lot of the other things they get involved in are too personal and invasive. However, I do support the smoking ban because breathing someone else's smoke can still kill you. As for cell phones, regardless of the quoted studies, I use my cell phone with a bluetooth earpiece. The phone has voice dial, and I feel that when I am talking, that I am paying adequate attention to the road. The problems I observe with others using cell phones is dialing a number, which takes their eyes off of the road, and holding the phone to their ear which blocks some of their side vision. If everyone's cell phone was like mine, I think it would be safe to talk and drive. That is why the newer phones have these safety features. Of course, it all depends on the person. Some people get so engrossed in talking, they are not careful drivers regardless of their phone's safety fearures. Others are careful even when using a conventional phone. The newest phones with the features I described are much safer than the ones you have to dial, and hold to your ear. Personally I don't think the problem warrants a ban. The idea of fining people who are in accident, or cause others to have an accident, while talking on a phone has great merit, and seems to me to be the best solution of all. Thank you, Lynn

Staci Dark Simpson 12 years, 5 months ago

Bugmenot: Just trying to make a point there are too many bans already. If you want to get vicious, put up your dukes!! 5 yr olds don't know what communism is.......sheeeesh

bearded_gnome 12 years, 5 months ago

The city could install cell phone jammers (there really are such things) at all major entrances to lawrence, with prominent signs in the dead zones. now, would people stop using their phones, or would more accidents result from the stopped phone signals? probably six of these would be enough for surrounding lawrence...

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