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Phone Use and Texting Ban




Driver’s Handheld Phone Use and Texting Ban
Should states enact and enforce laws prohibiting the use of handheld cell phone
among drivers?. It is my opinion that states that have not enacted laws to prohibit the use of
handheld cell phones enact such laws while those that have the laws should enforce them to
reduce cell phone-use related accidents. These laws do not violate individual’s rights and are
in accordance with the government responsibility of protecting the public. States should enact
and enforce efficient laws prohibiting the use of handheld cell phones because they are
distractions to the driver and increases the rate of fatal accidents.
Road accidents are a leading cause of deaths in the United States and most-developed
countries. They are the single most cause of death among young adults and adolescent.
Efforts to reduce road carnage have been characterized with strong laws and published
enforcement. One such law is the prohibition of cell-phone use. Over the years, the number of
cell phone subscribers has skyrocketed, and it is estimated that 73% of subscribers use cell
phones while driving. Epidemiologic studies indicate that the use of mobile phone while
driving increases chances of auto accidents. The risk of collision while using a cell phone is
four times higher that while not using cell phones (Olson, 2003).
Dangerous driving meets the classical liberal test by endangering not just the
individual driver, but others, including fellow motorists, passengers and pedestrians. Thus,
society has a right to mediate to protect the innocent. Although the use of mobile phone is a
personal liberty and should not be limited in the absence of a precise and actual danger to the

safety of others, such individual’s right end when they infringe on the safety and the right of
others. Several court cases have challenged the legality of the law. In the people V. Neville,
Ms. Neville challenged the New York law that prohibits the use of mobile phone on the
highway. She challenged the law on three bases. First she argued that the law was too vague
for the public to comprehend what specific behavior the law prohibits. Secondly, she argued
that the state exceeded its authority and impeded on her rights. The third argument was that
the law violated the Equal Protection Clause. However, a New York court upheld the law,
arguing that the law “satisfies the State’s role in protecting the safety and welfare of citizens.
Similarly, the Chicago cell law was challenged on constitutional ground but the federal court
of Illinois held that the legislation was enacted to protect the public.
Lecturing on a mobile telephone while driving is banned in ten provinces, including
California and New York while the usage of cell phone by novice drivers is restricted in
numerous countries. Text messaging is outlawed for all drivers in 38 states. Neurological
studies indicate that speaking to someone on the phone while driving consumes of the vital
resources required accomplishing complex visual activities such as driving. As a driver
listens to a conversation, the functioning of visual cortex reduces and partial lobe activation
reduces indicating that the driver is paying less attention to visual stimuli. Therefore, cell-
phone causes a kind of in-attention blindness that can have a deleterious effect on driving.
Engaging in demanding conversations jeopardize judgment and reaction time in case of
unusual driving incident. In addition, drivers using phones are likely to miss traffic signals
and signs because the conversation affects driving by diverting attention to an engaging
activity rather than driving. Although opponents of the law argue that hands-free devices are
the solution, neurologists argue that it is the conversation that distracts the mind but not a
phone. Therefore, hands-free phones would not provide a solution to the problem. In
addition, texting involve extensive manipulation of the phone that could produce performance

decrease especially in conditions that require drivers’ attention and skills. Talking on the
phone is especially dangerous for young adults, inexperienced drivers. The young drivers, by
necessity, should devote their attention to the driving task, thus making them susceptible to
the distractions posed by a telephone conversation. There are a host of studies linking cell
phone use and automobile accidents.
According to the Department of Transportation, drivers’ distraction accounts for 20%
to 30% of automobile accidents. Although it is hard to assess accidents caused by driver’s
distraction, accident witnesses and victims have identified common distractions such as
adjusting radio or CD player, use of other devices, vehicle climate control, using or dialing a
cell phone and moving objects in the vehicle, as key distracters. A probe into the death of five
fresh graduate involved in an accident in 2007 indicated that the driver was distracted by text
messaging. The five youngsters were traveling to celebrate their graduation when their car
collided with an oncoming trailer. According to the local sheriff, the driver had text his friend
seconds before the accident occurred. In the same year, Stacy Stubbs lost her life in a head-on
collision after text messaging distracted her, and she crossed the center line of a two-lane
highway. These cases are not isolated, and cases of distraction-related accidents are regular.
According to McCartt, Kidd and Teoh (2012), prohibitive laws and such countermeasures
have proved to be effective in changing drivers’ behaviors and consequently reducing road
accidents. They state “well-enforced traffic laws have been a highly effective
countermeasures for reducing risky driving behaviors and the associated crashes, deaths, and
injuries.” The enforcement of cell-phone ban in 11 states reduced the use of hand-held
devices significantly. Therefore, cell phone call ban is a viable alternative measure to reduce
accidents related to distractions. However, the ban does not influence the use of mobile
devices among youths. The study calls for more effective strategies to ensure compliant of
the ban to ensure the law achieves the desired results.

Geary and McCartt (2004) explored the long-term effects of drivers’ handheld phone
use in New York. The focus of the study was to identify whether cell-ban laws immediate
effects on the use of cell phones is sustained. According to the study, the enactment of the
law led to an immediate decline in the use of handheld cellphones. However, the decline was
not sustained beyond one year as drivers went back to the old habit. The authors noted that
similar to other highway laws and regulations, publicity and enforcement are critical factors
in the extent of drivers’ compliance with laws. Therefore, states that aim at enacting such
laws should investment in effective publicity company and establish efficient enforcement
strategies to achieve the desired reduction in cell-phone related accidents. Nikolaev, Robbins
and Sheldon (2010) evaluated the impact of legislation outlawing hand-held cell phone use
while driving. They conducted a pre-law and post-law comparison of road accident in New
York and concluded that the traffic law prohibiting the use of cell phone reduces the number
of fatal accidents significantly. The law also reduced personal injury accident rate, which is
an effective measure of cell phone ban. Law prohibiting hand-held cell phone use reduces
driver’s distraction and improves driver’s performance. The use of hand-held devices equates
to multi-tasking. Multi-tasking impairs driver performance and increases automobile
Over 30 states have enacted cell laws prohibiting drivers from text messaging or using
their phones while driving. Siew and Chi (2012) states that such laws often target young and
novice drivers, but few states have extended the ban to all drivers. Siew and Chi examined
the efficiency of such laws in reducing non-alcohol related fatal accidents involving young
drivers (below 21 years). The study concluded that the hand-held cell phone ban targeting all
drivers reduced fatal accidents involving young drivers. However, they noted that laws that
specifically target youths are inefficient in curbing cell phone related fatal accidents. The

results were the same for hands-free devices. They call for all drivers ban on hand-held cell
phone use and texting in all states to reduce non-alcohol related accidents.
In conclusion, despite increased awareness and publicity of the dangers of using
handheld and hands-free phone while driving, motorists continue to ignore the dangers the
behavior poses to them and to the public. Although legislation is not the best option to curb
distraction-related accidents, it provides a basis through which law enforcers can discourage
the use of cell phones. Regardless of whether the conversation is handheld or hands-free, the
use of cell phone reduces concentration on the road. Such laws or legislations should be
accompanied by intense publicity, campaign awareness and drivers’ education. The education
should not solely focus on the use of mobile phone alone, but also other distracters including
CD compacts, eating and moving objects. It is clear that the enforcement of such legislations
is likely to be challenging and often inefficient. However, with effective mechanisms, it is
possible to deter drivers from using mobile phone while driving in the busy highways.


Word Cited
Lim, Siew Hoon, and Junwook Chi. "Are Cell Phone Laws In The U.S. Effective In
Reducing Fatal Crashes Involving Young Drivers?." Transport Policy 27.(2013): 158-
163. Academic Search Premier. Web. 5 Aug. 2014.
M cCartt T, Kidd G. & Teoh E (2014). Driver cell phone and texting bans in the United
States: Evidence of Effectiveness. Annals of Advances in Automobile Medicine, 2014
(12), 124-27.
McCartt A, T., & Geary L, L. (2004). Longer term effects of New York State's law on
drivers' handheld cell phone use. Injury Prevention, 10(1), 11-5.
Nikolaev G., Robbins, J. & Jacobson H (2010). Evaluating the impact of legislation
prohibiting hand-held cell phone use while driving. Policy and Practice, 44, pp. 182–
Olson, Robin K. "Cell Phone Bans For Drivers: Wise Legislation?." CPCU Ejournal 56.11
(2003): 1-10. Academic Search Premier. Web. 5 Aug. 2014.

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