Bills Want RI Drivers to Hang up Cell Phones



Bills Want RI Drivers to Hang up Cell Phones

From an article in yesterday’s projo,

Amid growing reports nationwide of fatal car accidents tied to cell phone use, Rhode Island lawmakers are considering a pair of bills that would ban hand-held mobile telephones and prohibit text messaging while driving.

As we reported earlier, there was a teen killed in Taunton not long ago, where the driver admitted to sending a text message while driving.  If nothing else, perhaps an act like this would result in at least a fine.

A 2007 survey by AAA and Seventeen magazine found that 46 percent of 16-  and 17-year-old drivers said they text message while driving and 51 percent talk on cell phones while driving.

It’s not just teenagers. In a recent Zogby poll, 66 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds said that they’ve driven while texting. And now that Blackberries and other PDA devices have become more popular, many adults are also guilty of driving while typing, legislators say.

Yikes!  No wonder I see so many people on the phone while I’m riding along in traffic.  While the legislature is banning things, perhaps we could add reading, watching movies, dressing, etc. to the list of activities one should not do while driving.


  • Connie
    Jan 16, 2008 at 8:16 am

    This is good news! I very often see people who are totally distracted by their conversations! People are just too comfortable in their cars. They try to multi-task and drive as though the car will do most of the work and all they have to do is apply 10% of already limited brainpower to the task!

    I assume this doesn't apply to hand-free (Bluetooth, ear bud, etc.).

  • Jan 16, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    The specifically mentioned that people could use hands-free setups. What isn't clear to me is a) whether the distraction level is really any less using a hands-free setup and b) whether an ear bud or other bluetooth headset would be permissible. It's illegal to drive with any sort of headphones.

  • Don R.
    Jan 18, 2008 at 6:13 am

    It has been demonstrated that it doesn't actually matter if it's handheld or not. It's not the dialing or single-handedness that affects driving, it's the cognitive displacement of having a phone conversation. It takes attention away from the physical environment in the same way, whether it's handsfree or not.

    Unfortunately I don't have a good citation at my fingertips, but the studies are out there.

    Also, the prohibition on one of these RI bills that addresses texting will only apply to motorists under 18. That may be helpful, but it's clearly not enough. The man who killed the young cyclist in Taunton while texting was 31.

    The other RI bill, which prohibits handheld phones for all ages, also prohibits texting for all ages.

    Interestingly, cell phone companies are neutral-to-supportive of this type of legislation. So why are lawmakers not more supportive themselves? The RI legislature actually passed a ban on handheld phones in 2001, but Gov. Almond vetoed it. It's come back often since then, but never with enough support to pass.

  • Jan 18, 2008 at 6:19 am

    I've read about similar studies stating it's really the act of talking on the phone while driving that is the problem. Oddly, the same studies often find that talking on the phone is worse than talking with someone in the car. Either we interact with a phone in different way or we are trying to carry on a different type of conversation.

    As far as I'm concerned, anything they can do to try and get people to actually concentrate on driving while driving is a good thing. Forcing people to use hands free setups will create one more barrier to entry, albeit a rather short one.

    I'm completely flabbergasted that anyone could consider text messaging while driving a safe activity.