The nature of cell phones—the portability and convenience—has made these devices like an extra appendage. Few people leave home without them. And there are few places where they are prohibited. Incidences of careless driving while using a cell phone combined with downright tragic accidents, traceable to cell phone distractions, have sown the seeds for legislative action across the country.
Plenty of state governments have fervently added cell phone safety bills to their state’s business. So far only four actually have laws in place. Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York have made driving while manually operating a cell phone illegal; drivers must use hands-free devices instead. Starting in 2008 California will have a similar law. A most recent twist is Washington’s law that makes driving while texting (DWT) illegal, a sharp response to a growing cell phone danger.
cell phone dangers may seem a matter of course, but there are formidable opposing forces. cell phone industry lobbyists agree that cell phones must be used safely and in limited quantities when motorists are behind the wheel, but they also want to avoid those advocates whose platforms call for total cell phone bans. And their industry bottom line depends on it. The lobbyists subscribe to studies that seem to prove there are plenty of other driver behaviors that limit safety outside of cell phones. Their campaign is for consumer education versus wide-scale cell phone bans.
In direct opposition, consumer safety advocates rally loudly for strict cell phone control for motorists. Many organizations have tragic stories to boost their appeal among lawmakers and certain politicians have their own personal axes to grind. A number of high-profile accident cases involve employees on business cell phones. If you own a company and one of your employees runs down a pedestrian or causes a collision while distracted on a business call, you better say your prayers if you have no cell phone policy to fall back onto. Already a handful of companies have served as precedent of the looming litigation attached to corporate cell phone dangers.
Adrift on the sea of cell phone safety issues, automotive insurance companies straddle the line in the sand. Few commit to one side or the other. Reality: insurance companies have the incentives at their disposal to intensely mold driver behavior in the future.
cell phone safety regulations are hotly debated and every participant, but one, has stuck solidly to their position. Legislation is without a doubt a possibility and probably a reality for most locales at some point in the future.