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Safety Experts Urge Cell Phone Ban For Drivers

March 31, 2010

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Road safety professionals expect Texas lawmakers will introduce bills banning cell phone texting while driving. 20 states already have the kinds of laws that could be filed in the next legislative session. KERA's Bill Zeeble reports on the Texas Transportation Institute conference in Dallas.

David Teater, with the National Safety Council, says in his old job, he spent hours a day in his car talking on his cell phone. He thought it was necessary multi-tasking, and safe. That's before the call a few years back that his 12 year old son was killed, struck by a car whose driver was on a cell phone. Teater says more than 25 percent of vehicle accidents are caused by cell phone use while driving, and it's scary.

Teater: How many of you can watch your favorite TV show, follow the plot while you talk to someone on the telephone? Most people say they can't do both. ...I follow up and say, "Well, how can you drive a 5000 pound vehicle down road in a dynamic, always-changing environment and do it safely while talking to someone on the phone if you can't even follow the plot of a TV show?

Teater says there is no statistical difference between using a hand-held or hands-free cell phone. He also no longer believes in multi-tasking, saying it cannot be done. The National Safety Council wants to outlaw all drivers from using cell phones. Laura Dean-Mooney, with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, says it'll be a tough sell, especially because so many future drivers are growing up attached to their cell phones.

Dean-Mooney: It is hard to convince them, but I don't think it's impossible. It's education and enforcement - to get them to understand how critical it is because they can kill or injure themselves or some innocent person.

The term is known as distracted driving. Lasts year it was Webster's New World Dictionary Word of the Year. Teater says he's especially worried about a new term called pasting. He shows a photo of a cell phone taped to a car steering wheel.

Teater: This is what they refer to as a method of attaching a phone to your steering wheel so you can text better. It's actually got a word!

More than 40 countries and a handful of U.S. states ban drivers from talking on their cell phones while driving. But they still allow use of hands-free devices, despite statistics. Bill Zeeble KERA news.

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