There are six states - California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Utah and Washington (as well as the District of Columbia) which ban the use of cell phones unless using a headset or hands-free setup while driving. But the National Safety Council
wants to take things further: they are recommending a complete ban on cell phone use behind the wheel.
The NSC was founded in 1913 and formally recognized as a safety leader by an Act of Congress in 1953 that granted a Congressional Charter to it. According to their site, they are "the only major national entity dedicated to safety of people in all aspects of their lives: at work, on the roads and in homes and communities."
The group's president and chief executive, Janet Froetscher told
"When our friends have been drinking, we take the car keys away. It's time to take the cell phone away. Public awareness and the laws haven't caught up with what the scientists are telling us. There is no dispute that driving while talking on your cell phone, or texting while driving, is dangerous. It's not just what you're doing with your hands - it's that your head is in the conversation and so your eyes are not on the road."
She also told Reuters:
"Studies show that driving while talking on a cellphone is extremely dangerous and puts drivers at a four times greater risk of a crash. When you're on a call, even if both hands are on the wheel, your head is in the call, and not on your driving. Unlike the passenger sitting next to you, the person on the other end of the call is oblivious to your driving conditions. The passenger provides another pair of eyes on the road."
There have, in fact, been studies which liken talking on the cell phone to drunken driving. Last month Dave Strayer of the University of Utah and colleagues showed that drivers using a hands-free device drifted out of their lanes and missed exits more frequently than drivers talking to a passenger.
Naturally, the CTIA, an industry group, is against a total ban. Hmm, wonder why? John Walls, vice president of CTIA-The Wireless Association said:
"We think that you can sensibly and safely use a cell phone to make a brief call."
Interesting wording. "Brief call." Uh, huh. I hazard to say most calls are brief these days.
There's a detailed list of current bans of cell phone use here
. According to it, there are ten localities that ban cell phone use completely: Brookline, Mass.; Detroit; Santa Fe, N.M.; Brooklyn, North Olmstead, and Walton Hills, Ohio; Conshohocken, Lebanon, and West Conshohocken, Pa., and Waupaca County, Wis.
The sheer number of cell phone users is what makes the difference, Froetscher said: 270 million cell phone users in the U.S. with 80% estimated as talking on the phone while driving.
Still, not only would such a ban be unpopular with wireless carriers and cell phone manufacturers, it won't be popular with consumers, either. Having experienced a couple of near accidents ourselves through distraction on our part, it's hard to argue with the NSC, though.