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Archive for Friday, May 5, 2006

Overstepping

May 5, 2006

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To the editor:

While I find it admirable that the City Commission and the Traffic Safety Commission have taken up the charge to make our streets safer, the suggestion of a total (or even under the age of 18) ban on cell phone use while driving is not only unenforceable, it is a step too far.

Consider the following: Police pulling cars over at an alarming increase to check the license of drivers using cell phones; how many of them turn out to be 19 or 20? What about the numerous visitors from out of town who don't know our laws? Do they get ticketed? Is the city going to post signs at every possible entrance into the city? At what cost? What about people with On-Star? That can be used as a cellular service. Do they get ticketed? What about delivery drivers, taxi drivers or the police themselves? Do they get ticketed for doing their job?

People are not good drivers because they have their hands at 10 and 2 with their eyes focused intensely on the road, but because they have experience and education. What we need is better driver's education or mandatory driver's education to graduate high school or get your license.

Our commissioners are so quick to regulate and pass ordinances, they fail to see the need to educate. This is overgoverning at its highest. So I guess I better go drive around with a cigarette lit, windows down, cell phone to my ear and my music playing while I still have that privilege.

Brant Mcmullen,

Lawrence

Comments

Ragingbear 8 years, 3 months ago

I remember you. You were that guy that ran me off the road, and kept driving, passing a school bus with it's sign out and flashing. Of course, you didn't notice any of this because you were too busy talking on your cell phone.

Not only studies, but practical test and experience has more than proven that cell-phones are more than just a risk factor on the road, but a signifigant contributor to car accidents.

The show "Mythbusters" on discovery showed that you are safer on the road with a .05 blood alchohol level (.08 is legally drunk) than you are sober and on a cell phone.

The ONLY problem I have with all this is the limiting of this all to people below 18. From my experience, everyone is just as bad, or even worse.

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Richard Heckler 8 years, 3 months ago

The most recent employees manual the City of Lawrence discourages the use of devices while driving. It encourages pulling off to the side to conduct cell phone interaction.

Businesses: Businesses are increasingly prohibiting workers from using cell phones while driving to conduct business. In July 2004, the California Association of Employers recommended that employers develop a cell phone policy that requires employees to pull off the road before conducting business by cell phone.

Court Decisions: In December 2004 a civil case involving a car crash caused by a driver using a cell phone for business reasons was dismissed when the driver's employer, Beers Skanska Inc., agreed to pay the plaintiff $5 million. The plaintiff in the case being heard in Georgia's Fulton County Superior Court was severely injured in the crash. The suit is among the most recent of several cases where an employer has been held liable for an accident caused by a driver using a cell phone. See background section on Employer and Manufacturer Liability.

In mid-October 2004 in the case of Yoon v. Wagner a Virginia jury awarded $2 million in damages to the family of a young girl who was killed by a driver using a cell phone at the time of the accident. The plaintiff also filed a suit against the driver's employer after it became clear through an examination of phone records that the driver had been talking to a client when she hit the girl.

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Richard Heckler 8 years, 3 months ago

As many as 40 countries may restrict or prohibit the use of cell phones while driving. Countries reported to have laws related to cell phone use include Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Botswana, Chile, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Norway, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Singapore, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe. Most countries prohibit the use of hand-held phones while driving. Drivers in the Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom may use cell phones but can be fined if they are involved in crashes while using the phone. Drivers in the United Kingdom and Germany also can lose insurance coverage if they are involved in a crash while talking on the phone.

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Richard Heckler 8 years, 3 months ago

Supporters of restrictions on driving while using a cell phone say that the distractions associated with cell phone use while driving are far greater than other distractions. Conversations using a cell phone demand greater continuous concentration, which diverts the driver's eyes from the road and his/her mind from driving. Opponents of cell phone restrictions say drivers should be educated about the effects of all driver distractions. They also say that existing laws that regulate driving should be more strictly enforced.

Employer and Manufacturer Liability: Although only a handful of high-profile cases have gone to court, employers are still concerned that they might be held liable for accidents caused by their employees while driving and conducting work-related conversations on cell phones. Under the doctrine of vicarious responsibility, employers may be held legally accountable for the negligent acts of employees committed in the course of employment. Employers may also be found negligent if they fail to put in place a policy for the safe use of cell phones. In response, many companies have established cell phone usage policies. Some allow employees to conduct business over the phone as long as they pull over to the side of the road or into a parking lot. Others have completely banned the use of all wireless devices.

In an article published in the June 2003 edition of the North Dakota Law Review, attorney Jordan Michael proposed a theory of cell phone manufacturer liability for auto accidents if they fail to warn users of the dangers of driving and talking on the phone at the same time. The theory holds that maker liability would be similar to the liability of employers who encourage or demand cell phone use on the road. Holding manufacturers liable would cover all persons who drive and use cell phones for personal calls. Michael notes that some car rental agencies have already placed warnings on embedded cell phones in their cars.

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Richard Heckler 8 years, 3 months ago

There is no question that there are many distractions occuring in the car. Of course responsible drivers should make every effort to minimize those distractions. But none of those behaviors rise to the same level of driver inattention as does dialing and then conducting a conversation or closing a business deal on a cellular phone. Human Factors experts tell us that there are basically three kinds of driving distractions.

The first is visual. Looking away from the roadway would be an example of this.

The second is mechanical. This would include manipulation a control -- such as dialing a cellular phone or adjusting a radio, and can often be associated with a visual distraction.

The third is cognitive. By example, we have all had the experience of traveling from point A to point B and then realizing that we aren't sure how we got there or what happened in between. Being "lost in thought" or being in focused conversation with someone causes us to withdraw from situational awareness. Researchers are beginning to obtain evidence that shifting from hand held to hands-free phone use while driving does not result in eliminating all cell phone distractions. It addresses the visual and mechancial distractions, but does not address the cognitive issues.

This raises the question, "How is conversing on a phone different from talking with a passenger in the vehicle?" There are two important differences. The first is that a passenger in a vehicle is aware of the driving situation and can even serve as an additional look-out for hazards. If there is a needed pause in conversation, the reasons are evident to all parties.

The second is that phone use seems to carry a certain obligation of immediacy. When the phone rings, we feel compelled to answer it -- whether it is convenient, safe, or appropriate to do so or not.

We become focused on the phone call and lose the situational awareness so necessary for safe driving. (Fran Bents) Of all the distractions mentioned, only the use of a cell phone incorporates all three of those demands

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mom_of_three 8 years, 3 months ago

I don't think this law is necessary. If someone with a cell phone is involved in an accident, then ticket them. But don't ban them to the point where they can't be used in a car.
Besides, I don't have time to talk on my cell phone in the car. I am too busy avoiding accidents with the idiots who don't come to a complete stop at stop sign, to try to get somewhere as fast as they can.

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SpeedRacer 8 years, 3 months ago

It was argued that seat belt laws were unenforceable, too, but they have made a difference. Police do not actively search for seatbelt violators, but they are cited if involved in another traffic violation. The same could be applied to cell phones.

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blessed3x 8 years, 3 months ago

I don't really know where I come down on this issue, but I can state that, having to drive in KC Metro area traffic everyday, the most dangerous thing I see on a regular basis is someone trying to reenter traffic after having pulled over. So even this isn't an option in every situation.

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Fatty_McButterpants 8 years, 3 months ago

Brant: You don't have the right to drive around with your windows down and your music playing. At least not if it's audible from 50-feet away. That violates the city's noise ordinance for car stereos.

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Richard Heckler 8 years, 3 months ago

I'd say it is as enforceable as speeding,running red lights or DUI. All must be observed by law enforcement. Police do the best they can.

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BDitty 8 years, 3 months ago

The fact is some people are good drivers and some people are not. I have been driving for over 10 years (half of those with a cell phone) and my father for over 30, and neither of us has ever been in a motor vehicle accident. You can quote all the studies you want. I wonder, do those studies take into account the person's driving history, experience, and level of skill? I'm willing to bet that those people who cause wrecks while on their cell phones have either little driving experience or a less than perfect driving history to begin with. Look, I am all for implementing ENORMOUS fines for people who cause wrecks while on their phone. In fact, if they have repeated violations, suspend or terminate their license. However, don't punish 90% of the population for the inablities of the other 10%

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