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Los Angeles, California

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Michael Eyerly
Michael Eyerly
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Bill Aims to Curb Dangers of Driving Under the Influence of Cell Phones

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Bill banning use of cell phones by California drivers is sent to Governor Schwarzenegger. Drivers distracted by their cell phones cause thousands of accidents and injuries each year.

Having received final legislative approval, Senate Bill 1613 was sent to Governor Schwarzenegger yesterday. SB 1613, if passed into law, would ban drivers from taking on cell phones unless they use a hands-free device. In fact, California lawmakers have introduced similar measures in each of the past five years to no avail. SB 1613, however, may well succeed where the others have faltered. Governor Schwarzenegger recently expressed support for such legislation, saying, “We must make sure that people don’t use phones, because it not only endangers them but it endangers everyone else out there.” His point is well taken.

A study conducted by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, published a few years ago, estimated cell phone distraction causes 2,600 deaths, 330,000 injuries and 1.5 million instances of property damage in the United States every year. And, if anything, those numbers may be too low given the steady increase in cell phone use in the years since the study was published.

Further, a more recent study concluded that talking on a cell phone while driving is just as dangerous as driving drunk. The study was conducted by University of Utah psychologists and published this summer in Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. As assistant Frank Drews explained, “We found that people are as impaired when they drive and talk on a cell phone as they are when they drive intoxicated at the legal blood-alcohol limit.”

State lawmakers’ concerns about cell phone usage is backed by the empirical evidence. Talking on a cell phone while driving is dangerous; it leads to car accidents. If you are involved in a car accident, find out whether the other driver was under the influence of talking on a cell phone. This may well be an important factor in determining fault.