On bans on handheld cellphones while driving
When we did this in NYC, even the police ignored it (a visit last month found them still chatting away in their cars). I live in Georgia now. But come July 1 in California…
…drivers talking on their mobile phones without a hands-free device are subject to a $20 fine and a run-in with the law. The Golden State’s new traffic ordinance follows similar versions adopted in Connecticut, New Jersey, Washington state, the District of Columbia, New York and the Virgin Islands.
While the fines aren’t wallet-busting, there’s a hitch. Except in Washington state, an officer can pull you over solely for talking on the phone without a headset.
The laws are even stricter for new drivers. As many as 17 states and the District of Columbia ban cellphone use entirely for minors and new motorists while operating a vehicle (see map). They include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.
The states’ cellphone driving laws were adopted with safety in mind. Studies by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis (.pdf) suggest 2,600 people are killed and as many as 330,000 people are injured each year in the United States in cellphone-related driving accidents.
Is hands-free the answer?
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have noted that voice-activated or hands-free calling is a major distraction, too.
And, of course, there’s all those other distractions drivers are so fond of. Automated driving! That’s what I’m looking forward to…