Sunday, February 22, 2009

State Cell Phone Ban Laws

Although many may be accustomed to the legal policy of a ban on cellular phone use while operating a vehicle, it is currently still only mandated on a state level. Currently cell phone driving laws are only banned for all drivers in five states (California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Washington) and include the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands. With the exception of the District of Columbia, these laws are primary enforcement policies, which means that law enforcement officers can stop a moving vehicle on the sole basis of using a cell phone. However, in the District of Columbia, it still remains a secondary offense and is only chargeable in combination with another primary offense. New Jersey also had an identical cell phone policy for the first few years that is was in effect, and has only changed it within the past few years.
Cell phone usage is currently defined as a handheld mobile device that is being operated while driving. Currently, no state completely bans the use of all types of cell phones and allows drives to opt to use hands-free devices in order to still communicate while driving. However, 17 states and the District of Columbia do prohibit all cellular use, both handheld and hands-free for certain segments of the population. These include novice drivers who have a limited or temporary driver’s license and school bus drivers. Furthermore, seven states (Alaska, California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey and Washington) and the District of Columbia have a text messaging ban for all drivers. Additionally, despite the growing popularity of cell phone bans while driving, eight states have preemption laws that prohibit local jurisdiction from enacting restriction of drivers. However, some of these states such as Utah and New Hampshire still treat cell phone use as a cause of distraction when a moving violation occurs.
These laws are based on statistical data that the use of a handheld device while driving causes one hand to be busy and therefore does not allow a driver to effectively react in a dangerous situation. This analysis is therefore adapted to current legislative policies that require drivers to maintain a certain 10 and 2 hand position on the steering wheel and requires the use of two hands. Furthermore, the argument for the ban results in the data that texting while driving actively engages a certain part of the visual cortex of the brain and therefore actively removes concentration from the road to the texting task at hand. This causes a great amount of risk and often leads to accidents.
Although, these policies might seem like a burden to many commuters, it is simply for the safety of the community. It does not prohibit the complete use of cellular technology, but rather requires that an additional hands-free unit be used so that the driver can have full capabilities to react in a dangerous situation. It seems like a reasonably sound and small request in order to save lives.

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