NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Soon Cell Phones May Be Just The Ticket For Motorists

December 20, 1999

The Cleveland suburb of Brooklyn, Ohio, made history by becoming the first jurisdiction in the U.S. to ban using a cell phone while driving. But authorities in areas across the country are debating whether or not to impose similar measures as the number of cell phone subscriptions reaches 76.2 million this year.

  • In 1997, doctors at the University of Toronto estimated that motorists are four times more likely to crash when they are using cell phones.
  • A new National Highway Traffic Safety Administration analysis of 1997 crash data shows that driver distraction accounted for at least 26 percent of fatal accidents that year.
  • Critics complain that it is unfair to single out cell phone users when other drivers apply makeup, read maps and even shave while commuting.
  • Moreover, high-tech firms are preparing to flood the market over the next decade with devices ranging from fax machines and television sets in cars to dashboard Internet access.

The NHTSA analysis revealed that cell phones were a factor in at least 57 deaths in 1997, compared with only seven in 1991.

Cell phone defenders point out that the devices help improve police response times to accidents, alert police to crimes in progress and help rescue stranded motorists. Government studies show that nearly 18 million emergency calls were made to 911 last year on cellular phones.

Source: Scott Bowles, "States Warn Drivers to Mute Cell Phone Chats," USA Today, December 20, 1999.

 

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