|New Arkansas law is good first step, but should go further|
|Written by Allie Smith|
|Thursday, 03 March 2011 00:00|
The Arkansas Legislature passed a law Feb. 19 banning the use of cell phones while driving in school zones and highway work zones. Starting Oct. 1, drivers will be fined $50 if using a handheld cell phone in a school zone during school hours when children are present. The fine is the same if drivers use a handheld cell phone in a highway work zone while workers are present.
The ban comes two years after a similar state law banning text messaging while driving. The ban does not include the use of hands-free devices and will not be enforced in emergency situations.
Besides the text messaging ban and the new law, Arkansas has two other cell phone bans. Drivers younger than 18 are banned from any type of cell phone use and drivers 18-20 can only use a hands-free device.
Some say this is a step in the right direction. While we agree, we do not think this step is big enough. If Arkansas’ legislators truly want to make the highways safe, they should ban cell phone use altogether.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation website, distraction.gov, there are three types of distractions while driving. They include visual, manual and cognitive. Visual and manual distractions occur when a driver takes his eyes off the road or his hands off the wheel. Cognitive distractions occur when a driver takes his mind off driving.
When using a cell phone drivers are involved in all three distractions. They are holding the phone, looking at it to answer or place a call, and it is impossible to do either without thinking about it.
The website claimed that 20 percent of car accidents in 2009 were caused by distracted driving. The website also stated that using a cell phone can delay a driver’s reactions as much as a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent. To put that in perspective, the average adult can consume four beers and be just under 0.08 percent.
Cell phone use is not the only cause of distracted driving. Other causes are eating, putting on makeup and even changing the radio station.
Many people argue the government should not ban cell phones unless it is ready to ban the other causes, as well.
We do not disagree. Why not ban eating while driving?
Why not make putting on makeup while driving illegal?
Is either activity necessary to do in the car while driving?
Put your makeup on at home in front of a bathroom mirror. Do not use your vehicle’s rearview mirror. And if you are driving across country and you need a late-night meal, park in the parking lot and eat before you get back on the road.
It may be impractical to make changing a radio station illegal, but automobile manufacturers can work to create a solution for that problem.
Many cars already have controls on the steering wheel that allow drivers to change the station or turn up the volume without their hands ever leaving the wheel. Some newer cars even have command systems that are voice activated, allowing the driver to literally tell the car what song to play from the driver’s iPod.
We believe it is inevitable that cell phone use in automobiles will one day be banned nationally. Arkansas is one of the 30 states that bans texting while driving. Arkansas is one of 28 states that bans drivers younger than 18 from using any type of cell phone.
And we believe Arkansas should join the eight states that have already banned handheld cell phone use while driving.
Our state can and should be a national leader for highway safety.