I'm of a mixed mind on this issue.
On one hand, the real issue has nothing to do with cell phones. On the other hand, reducing distractions while driving is a good thing.
The latest research (Public Policy Institute of California, University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center) shows a couple of interesting things.
First, hands-free requirements had zero effect on accidents except in bad road conditions.
Second, other research in Canada and Australia showed that cell phone usage did affect accident rates -- whether the driver used a hands free device or not.
The issue is not the cell phone. The issue is distractions.
On July 1, we will still be able to do the following while driving:
- Dial the cell phone!!!!! Eyes off road during this activity.
- Punch an address into the navigation system
- Eat Chinese food (with chop sticks)
- Adjust the radio
- Read books, magazines, etc.
- Put on make-up
- Shave -- Electric, please
- Review stock ticker on the satellite radio
- Tend to the baby
- Hold a dog on our lap
- Reach for objects on the passenger seat
- Look for junk in the glove box
- Change CDs, remove the old, find the new, etc.
- Drink coffee
- Read printed maps
- Watch videos
- Check data feeds on the PDA/smart phone
- Drive like a crazed lunatic who must change four lanes at once
- Curl our eyelashes
- Change clothes
- Drive while tired
- Operate a laptop on the seat next to us
- and More!
Check out videos of people driving while distracted: http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2006/04/20/koch.distracted.drivers.cnn. The related article is here: http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/04/20/driving.study/index.html.
Here's the statistic that tells it all:
"Almost 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes happen within three seconds of some form of driver distraction, according to the report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute."
I'm not sure why people are fixated on the cell phone. You can be distracted by anything.
Let's hope the State Legislature doesn't waste money making laws against every other stupid activity human beings can come up with.
Our company has long had a policy that prohibits all cell phone use while driving a vehicle. We didn't do this for safety reasons, per se. After all, our technicians can still spill coffee or hot cigarette ashes on themselves while driving. They can change CDs, read books, and shave.
So why did we pick on cell phones? Because our society is fixated on cell phones, and we can easily foresee a lawsuit if one of our people is in an accident and is talking on a cell phone.
It would be easier to just pass a law that says "Don't be stupid." But we don't have the money needed to build 7,000 new prisons. Although we could save a lot of money by eliminating 10,000 existing laws that amount to the same thing.