Possible cell phone ban in Philly?

From today’s KYW Newsradio, there is a Philly cell phone ban to be proposed. And I think it’s about time. Unfortunately, as I’ve witnessed when driving in NJ, people won’t always follow the law like they should, but I still think a law like this would be a step in the right direction.

The article says:

City Councilman Bill Greenlee says such a ban in a city this big is sorely needed:

“I think it’s clear that when somebody is on a cell phone, a hand held cell phone — or texting, which I think is even worse. They’re both bad, but I think texting is even worse — that they’re clearly not paying as much attention as they would otherwise.”

but since this would be a local city law, rather than a state law:

But its unclear whether a Philadelphia only cell phone ban as proposed would hold up in court. The state motor vehicle code seems to prohibit such local laws, but Green and Greenlee insist that their measure, if approved, would hold up in court.

On so many occasions while driving in Philly (and in the ‘burbs), I’ve seen someone driving either too fast or too slow, or just plain not paying attention to the road, only to see they’re busy gabbing on the cell phone. Often it’s the ones driving a monster SUV or mega truck with a Support Our Troops magnet and/or God Bless America stickers all over the car that could kill any smaller cars in an instant, but sometimes it’s the little zippy cars.

In doing a search for information on cell phone safety in cars, I came upon a few interesting statistics. Via an article from the Insurance Information Institute:

  • A survey of dangerous driver behavior was released in January 2007 by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. The survey of 1,200 drivers found that 73 percent talk on cellphones while driving. Cellphone use was highest among young drivers.
  • Text messaging, or “texting” by teens, a driving distraction related to cellphone use, was the subject of an August 2006 Teens Today survey conducted by the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD). The survey showed that teens considered sending text messages via cellphones to be their biggest distraction. Of the teens surveyed, 37 percent said that text messaging was extremely or very distracting, while 20 percent said that they were distracted by their emotional states and 19 percent said that having friends in the car was distracting. The January 2007 survey by Nationwide found that 19 percent of motorists say they text message while driving.
  • Motorists who use cellphones while driving are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves, according to a study of drivers in Perth, Australia, conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The results, published in July 2005, suggest that banning hand-held phone use will not necessarily improve safety if drivers simply switch to hand-free phones. The study found that injury crash risk didn’t vary with type of phone.
  • A study released in April 2006 found that almost 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds of the event. The study, The 100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study, conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), breaks new ground. (Earlier research found that driver inattention was responsible for 25 to 30 percent of crashes.) The new study found that the most common distraction is the use of cellphones, followed by drowsiness. However, cellphone use is far less likely to be the cause of a crash or near-miss than other distractions, according to the study. For example, while reaching for a moving object such as a falling cup increased the risk of a crash or near-crash by nine times, talking or listening on a hand-held cellphone only increased the risk by 1.3 times. The study tracked the behavior of the 241 drivers of 100 vehicles for more than one year. The drivers were involved in 82 crashes, 761 near-crashes and 8,295 critical incidents.

There was also a study by the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society that found Hands-On or Hands-Free, Using a Cell Phone While Driving Is Not Safe… and an article from Associated Content, Driving and Cell Phones Still Don’t Mix.

Whatever happens, I really think this would be a great move by Philly and hope that, if it passes, it will eventually spread and create the law throughout the state.


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