Feds have it right about cell phones?

Posted on July 30, 2009 by Alex Roman - Also by this author

To further support the idea that cell phone use is dangerous, the New York Times recently posted a previously unreleased 2003 study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that suggested that all cell phone use – whether it be talking on the phone, listening to someone, writing a text message or dialing – was equally as dangerous. Hammering home that point, a recent study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute concluded that an accident is 20 times more likely if a person texts while driving. The study also found that a driver's risk increases if he or she is driving a heavy vehicle (read bus) or truck to 23.2 times more likely.

Recognizing the dangers of cell phone use and responding to recent public transportation accidents where use was attributed to being a contributing factor, U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) unveiled new legislation that will ban train conductors and bus drivers from texting on their cell phones while on the job. According to a press release, Sen. Schumer’s proposed legislation will accomplish four goals: First, it bans any driver or conductor from using any electronic devices while inside any public or private transportation vehicle they are operating; second, the legislation creates severe penalties and fines for any driver or conductor found using an electronic device inside a transportation vehicle they are operating; third, the legislation directs conductor and driver training programs to emphasize the danger of texting while operating a vehicle; and lastly, it creates a hotline for concerned citizens to call when they witness a driver or conductor using an electronic device while operating a vehicle.

Although I fully understand each individual state’s right to adopt such a law, waiting for all 50 to come together and realize that banning cell phone use for public transportation operators is a no-brainer could take either many years or a fatal accident on their own system. By taking a somewhat proactive approach – it does after all come in the wake of several accidents – Sen. Schumer’s proposal would make it mandatory for each state to adhere to the law and, probably, prevent future deaths aboard our transit systems. And, that should indeed be applauded.

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