Many people love their cell phones, but one thing's clear: Using a cell phone while driving is just like driving drunk. It's dangerous and people are dying every day because of it.Our local lawmaker, Chris Ross, has introduced legislation squarely aimed at cell phones and other things that distract drivers, including texting, reading newspapers and applying makeup. Ross is confident his legislation, which garnered full House approval earlier last week, will sail through the Senate and become law sometime later this year.
Cell phones have become such a large part of life that we just can't imagine restrictions on them. But it's happening. They're banned for motorists who drive in New York City, and Philadelphia just adopted a very strict cell phone driving law.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers are four times more likely to become involved in an accident if they are talking on a cell phone. Even the hands-free sets offer little advantage. The distraction is enough that motorists' attention to the road is diverted. They are a danger to themselves and to other motorists.
According to a study of the Harvard Center of Risk Analysis, cell phone use at the wheel causes 330,000 accidents in the U.S. per year, 12,000 of them serious and 2,600 of them fatal. The estimated annual financial cost of cell phone-related crashes is $43 billion.
These are sobering statistics indeed, and it's little wonder there's a national movement right now to initiate cell phone driving laws. Ross's bill is not as strict as some because it treats these distractions as a secondary offense. That means police officers can't pull over a motorist who is talking on his cell phone in the car obiding by all rules of the road. That means there will be no windfall for municipalities looking for some extra cash for their coffers.
But what we really like about Ross' proposal is that is bundled with other motor vehicle code changes that are long overdue.
We see little reason for people to talk on their cell phones while driving, other than to place a distress call. For a century, motorists have existed without the benefit of cell phones. The calls can wait until a motorist arrives at his or her destination, or pulls over safely to the side of the road.
Our roads are dangerous enough without adding more peril. We support Ross' legislation and hope it makes it through the legislative process and becomes law.