Monday, February 12, 2007

Senate bill would ban the use of personal communications devices by drivers including other distracting activity such as interacting with pets

Two bills that come before the committee next week proposed to ban the use of cell phones were driving.
One bill cosponsored by Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, would fine drivers up to $360 for talking on the phone or putting on makeup while driving.
''It's one thing to pick on cell phones, but there's a lot of other amazing things people do behind the wheel,'' Burdick said.

One of the bills being presented goes a step further to prevent "distracting activity" such as "reading, writing, performing personal grooming, and interacting with pets."
Troy Costales, the administrator of Oregon's Department of Transportation's safety division says "basically your head leaves the car when you're on the phone... you tune out."
Michael Bagley, executive director of public policy for Verizon wireless, said that Verizon supports the ban because they don't include hands-free mobile phone devices that allow callers to make voice activated calls.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2005, five of Oregon's 487 car-related fatalities were linked to cell phone use, as were 234 of its 44,877 crashes, according to state statistics. I'm not a math wizard, but isn't that an awful low percentage?

While three other states including the District of Columbia outright ban cell phone use for drivers, lawmakers in Vermont are considering a bill that would prohibit not just the use of cell phones, but everything from smoking to playing a musical instrument while driving.


Anonymous Gary said...

Robin -- I know you aren't a math whiz so I did some figuring. In Oregon, it's about 1% and nation wide, it's less than 1%. When I was a kid, my Dad worked for the State of Oregon. I remember when he would get a state car to drive out of town for a meeting and they wouldn't have a radio because it was too distracting. When I drive with my wife, we talk and sometimes that is distracting, maybe that should be against the law, too!

6:39 AM  
Blogger Bobkatt said...

I was wondering how long it would be before someone had the courage to address this problem. Anyone who doesn't think this is a bane to driving hasn't had the opportunity to be behind one of these obnoxious cretins. They creep along holding up traffic and then wander from lane to lane and turning with no signal. They try to say that hands free headsets are the answer but that doesn't address the problem of having your concentration completely distracted. The only survey I have seen equates driving with or without headset as being more dangerous than driving slightly above the legal alcohol level.

12:48 PM  
Blogger OregonGuy said...

Gary nails it.

It's radio. Not all radio, assuredly. Just talk, urban and pop radio. Okay, and the jazz and classical stations. Oh, the classic rock stations...and tape players. And, ohmygod, CD players! Did you forget CD players?

To think of all the years we've put our children, our neighbors, people we don't even know, at risk. It's insane...we've been so selfish!

But how to enforce the new rules. We can do it from Space! Another reason to support our Governor's new space program!

1:40 PM  
Anonymous Laura said...

Personally, I enjoy the times that I am unavailable. I don't have a cell phone and don't want one. Call me when I'm home or leave a message on my machine. Everyone needs some free time. It is no wonder we are such a stressed society when we have no down time.

8:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Yes, that is a very low percentage. Hi I am from the Government and I am here to help you.

5:03 PM  
Blogger knappster said...

Sometimes government has to step in when people are incredibly stupid and inconsiderate — to the point of killing others.  In other words, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" is not only reserved for a tyrannical majority.

Here's a pertinent news item from last November:

Woman is Sentenced for Bicyclist's Death
by Mary Schenk

URBANA – Jennifer Stark wiped away tears and nodded that she understood the maximum sentence a Champaign County judge gave her Wednesday for improper lane usage.

The 19-year-old Urbana woman appeared in court, flanked by her parents, to plead guilty to a petty offense and be sentenced for actions that led to the death of Matthew Wilhelm.

The 25-year-old former Champaign resident, a University of Illinois mechanical engineering graduate working for Caterpillar in Peoria, died on Sept. 8 from head injuries he received Sept. 2 when Stark hit him with her car because she was downloading ring tones to her cell phone instead of paying attention to driving.

Mr. Wilhelm was bicycling north on Illinois 130 east of Urbana when he was struck from behind about 7:15 p.m.  Stark was so far off the road that she hit Mr. Wilhelm from behind with the driver's side of her car.

-- snip --

But Gloria Wilhelm, the mother of the victim, was not reticent.  She calmly read to Judge Klaus a statement in which she chided the system that allowed Stark to continue driving even though her "irresponsible behavior continued to worsen."

-- snip --

"In addition to a mere fine, we implore you to recommend community service and continued education to improve her driving.  She needs more than just to 'live with this the rest of her life.'  She can celebrate holidays and birthdays with her family.  We can't do this with Matt."

Stark's mother sobbed as she listened to Mrs. Wilhelm continue.

"We have nightmares of Matt's last moments when he was riding way off to the side of the road on a clear beautiful day and was hit with no warning....  Another person told me they saw the accident scene and it was something no mother should have to witness all for a cell phone ring tone....  All for a self-indulged driver who has her priorities ridiculously out of order."

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