Where do you stand on this issue? It seems wherever you go, people are on their cell phone even while driving their cars. This has caused many to wonder whether cell phone use should be permitted while operating a motor vehicle. There are three sides to this issue:
1. A ban on cell phone use by drivers due to the fact that many Florida car accidents happen when a driver is distracted while talking on the phone.
2. No ban on cell phone use due to the opinion that it is possible to drive safely while speaking on a phone and no one should dictate that drivers should not be able to talk and drive.
3. A compromise – allow cell phone use only with a hands-free headset or ear piece.
Earlier this year bills were introduced by Florida Legislators which were aimed at reducing cell phone calls in moving cars, none were passed. One bill was aimed at banning all Florida drivers from sending a call, texting, dialing, listening or speaking on a wireless device without a hands-free device. Another would have banned teen drivers from driving and talking on hand-held devices.
We have found in our practice that there are more and more accidents that are caused by drivers who are on there cell phones and there are statistics that do seem to suggest that legislation is needed. The leading cause of fatalities for teenagers and drivers in their 20’s and 30’s reported by the CDC are car accidents. In addition, it is well known that car accidents also cause many serious injuries to drivers and passengers. The following studies have found a link between fatalities and injuries in vehicular accidents and cell phone use by the drivers:
1. In 2002, the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis study, found that about 2,600 fatalities each year are caused by drivers who are distracted by cell phones at the time of an accident.
2. The California Highway Patrol also conducted their own research in 2001 and found that during a nine month period 4,699 car crashes were linked to drivers distracted by their cell phones.
3. Another study conducted by the University of Utah found that drivers using cell phones had the same response times as drunk drivers. The drivers using cell phones, the research revealed, were 9% slower to brake and 19% slower to return to normal driving speeds.
It’s almost impossible to believe that our Florida legislature decided five years ago to make it illegal for local jurisdictions to ban cell phones. The studies listed and data from our own Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reveal that in 2006, 26 car accident fatalities and 1,364 car accident injuries in Florida involved driver distractions. We all need to let our legislature know that the citizens of Florida want their streets and highways to be safer and legislation that limits the use of cell phones while operating a motor vehicle will help to accomplish that goal. This is not about convenience or taking away our rights, it is about saving lives that are needlessly cut short as a result of drivers who are unnecessarily distracted while operating a vehicle.