The Governors Highway Safety Assn. (GHSA) has called for the outlawing of all handheld cell phone use behind the wheel. . At last week’s GHSA annual meeting, the group broadened its support for legislation against distracted driving to include a ban for all drivers, not just truckers. Until this meeting, the association’s stance had been to support a ban against text messaging for all drivers, and a ban on all electronic devices for new drivers and school bus drivers.
Last year, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended a ban on using mobile devices to hold conversations or send text messages while driving. This was brought on when the National Safety Council issued a statement that estimated that about 1.2 million accidents a year involve cell phones.
GHSA Executive Director Barbara Harsha has said that a ban on handheld use is just the first step. The solution to the problem of distracted driving would be a ban on any cell phone use in moving vehicles, whether handheld or not.
She cites studies that have shown that even when drivers have their hands free, the distraction of talking on a cell phone is enough to create a dangerous environment. The difficulties with a ban on hands-free cell phone use are two-fold. The most obvious is that it is incredibly difficult to enforce. A police officer who sees a driver talking in a car may assume that they were using a hands-free device, but the driver can easily claim that they were just talking to themselves. The officer would have no way to prove they were using a cell phone.
Additionally, if drivers aren’t allowed to use even hands free devices, all sorts of issues will crop up when drivers are forced to pull over every time they need to make a call. The lack of sufficient safe space for drivers to take a break, the wasted time not spent driving (and therefore earning), and delays on freight will all become much larger issues. Not to mention the drivers who spend most of their day on a hands-free device talking to friends and family.
Cell phone use is being legislated nationwide, and many states are taking action in responsible ways, but distracted driving is still a huge cause of accidents. The perfect balance has not yet been found, so it is up to all of us to hold ourselves responsible and keep each other safe.