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Debate: Banning cell phones in cars

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Should all cell phone use in cars be banned?

Background and context

In little more than a decade, mobile phones have become widespread in developed countries, changing the way people communicate and interact. Concerns over their use have tended to centre upon possible radiation’s impact upon the brain, but more recently mobile phones have been blamed for causing a considerable number of road accidents. As a result, a number of countries are seriously considering a ban on using a mobile phone while driving, following the lead of Eire and the State of New York in the USA. In the UK the government issued a consultation paper in August 2002, indicating that legislation is likely in the next couple of years.

Contents

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Public safety: Is the use of cell-phones while driving a public hazard?

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Yes

  • Cell phone use in cars impairs driving, causes accidents Physically holding a handset removes one hand from the controls, making accidents more likely, while dialling is even worse, as it also requires the user to divert their attention away from the road. Research shows that drivers speaking on a mobile phone have much slower reactions in braking tests than non-users, and are worse even than if they have been drinking.[1] Such cell phone use has led, according to some estimates, to the death of roughly 2,600 drivers annually.[2]
  • People should not explain in car on phone why they are running late. If one is late, there is little difference in apologizing while in their car over a cell phone and apologizing in front of their boss at the office. So, they should have the restraint to drive at the speed limit, arriving late, and being willing to apologize then; an apologetic cell phone call in a car to a boss shouldn't be the cause of one being able to then relax, slow-down, and drive the speed-limit.


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No

  • Citizens' judgement should be trusted in using cell phones For example, it is responsible to use a cell phone while the car is at a standstill in gridlocked traffic, while waiting at traffic lights, or on a quiet road with good visibility ahead. The driver should be taught to use cell phones on the road with discretion, rather than rigidly banning their use all together.
  • Cell phone use in cars does not cause many accidents Paul Tetlock, Jason Burnett and Robert Hahn. "Ban Cell Phones In Cars?". Cato.org. December 29, 2000 - "Cell phone subscribership in the United States has grown dramatically in recent years, from 92,000 people in 1985 to more than 77 million in 1999. A recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration survey reports that 44 percent of drivers have a cell phone with them while driving, a number that will only increase with the proliferation of phone ownership. We calculated that car accidents associated with phone use account for about 300 deaths per year. While small in comparison to the 41,000 annual deaths from car accidents, these deaths raise the question whether cell phone use while driving is justifiable. We think a ban is unwise at this time because vehicular cell phone use provides substantial personal and societal benefits, but does not contribute to a large number of serious accidents."
  • Cell phone use in cars probably saves lives Using mobiles on the road could improve safety, for example, by allowing delayed employees to ring in to the office rather than drive recklessly in an effort to arrive more promptly. Drivers now often use mobile phones to report accidents to the emergency services, and alert the police to dangerous driving, stray animals, unsafe loads, etc.
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Other distractions: Is cell-phone use uniquely distracting?

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Yes

  • Passengers are less distracting than cell phones University of South Carolina Psychology Professor Amit Almor said that cell phone conversations and conversations with a passenger are very different. - "When you have someone sitting next you you, that person can, in fact, function as an extra pair of eyes. That person can respond to the changing road conditions."[4]
  • Talking on phone equally impairing as drinking and driving. Utah Pscycologists warn against cell phone use while driving. Much in the same way that you put yourself and others at risk by driving drunk, the same occurs when driving while using a cell phone.[5]
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No

  • Many things in cars are just as distracting as cell phones These include eating, changing tapes, retuning the radio, arguing with your spouse about directions, trying to stop children squabbling, etc. We should not introduce a law that victimizes mobile phone users under all conditions, while completely ignoring many other causes of accidents.
  • If you can't ban sleep-driving, why ban talking on phone in car. There is no way that police can moniter the amount of sleep drivers have had before they drive. If driving and talking on the phone is to be banned, then driving while falling asleep ought to be banned as well. But of course, this doesn't make any sense, which is why banning talking on the phone and driving is also unreasonable.
  • Teaching drivers to minimize distractions better than phone ban John Walls, a vice president at the industry group, the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association-The Wireless Association. - "We believe educating drivers on how to best handle all of the possible distractions when you're behind the wheel is the most effective means to make better drivers, and that legislation focusing on a specific behavior falls short of that well-intended goal and creates a false sense of security."[6]


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Practice: Do users of cell phones get better with practice?

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Yes


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No

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Importance: Is cell phone use in cars unimportant? Relative to risks?

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Yes

  • Cell phone use in cars is unnecessary; people went without them before., and little else about life has changed radically enough to make them indispensable, so there is no real loss of personal liberty in having your ability to communicate restricted in this way. If there is a pressing need to make a call, then drivers can always pull over and dial from a parked vehicle. The ban will also protect drivers from pressure from bosses who call them while on the road, effectively requiring their employees to risk their lives for the company.
  • People should pull over to talk on their cell phones. The social benefits of cell phones are not significantly curtailed if people are required to pull over to talk on their phones.


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No

  • Social benefits of cell phones in cars outweigh risks Patrick Dudley, who authored the report with Robert Hahn, American Enterprise Institution-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies. "The Disconnect Between Law and Policy Analysis: A Case Study of Drivers and Cell Phones." - "The public places a greater cost benefit on the convenience of using phones while driving than it does on safety...We're explaining why the case for a ban isn't there, looking at safety versus economic benefits."
One study conducted by Robert Hahn and John Hird estimated the costs of a ban at $25 billion, compared to the total economic losses, including deaths and injuries, of $4.6 billion.[7]
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Hands-free phones: Are hands-free mobile phones just as dangerous?

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Yes

  • Hands-free cell phones are just as distracting to drivers Conversations of any kind (with or without the involvement of the hands) impairs concentration and reactions in braking tests.[8][studies?...] For some reason the brain treats a telephone conversation differently from talking to a passenger, perhaps because the passenger is also aware of possible road hazards in a way the telephone caller cannot be and so makes less demands upon the driver in terms of concentration at critical moments. In any case, voice activated technology is often unreliable, risking drivers trying to use it getting frustrated and losing concentration. It would be inconsistent to ban one sort of mobile phone while allowing the other sort, which can be just as lethal. Therefore, hands-free mobile phone use while driving should also be banned.


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No

  • Hands-free cell phones are sufficiently safe on the road. These allow drivers to communicate freely without taking their hands off the controls or their eyes off the road. Effectively there is no difference between talking to someone on a hands-free mobile, and holding a conversation with a passenger next to you; in fact, the latter is more dangerous as you may be tempted to turn your head to directly address the passenger.


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Careless driving laws: Are careless driving laws insufficient?

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Yes

  • Careless driving laws are inadequate; cell phone ban is necessary. driving without due care and attention is a limited charge that can be very difficult to prove. In any case, every time a driver of a moving vehicle uses a mobile phone a potentially dangerous situation is created, as they are much less able to react to events around them. This justifies a specific offence being introduced.



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No

  • Cell phone ban is unnecessary; careless driving laws are sufficient This means that if someone is driving dangerously through inappropriate use of their mobile phone, then the police can already prosecute them. Rather than introduce a new law, the police should instead enforce the existing rules more thoroughly. This could be coupled with energetic advertising campaigns to warn people of a range of potentially dangerous driving habits.




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Enforcement: Would a cell phone ban be enforceable?

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Yes

  • New laws would be enforceable, as billing records will show whether a phone was in use at the time. Improving camera technology may also allow the automatic detection of drivers breaking laws against mobile phone use at the wheel. In any case, just because a law is not completely enforceable, it does not follow that it should be scrapped.



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No

  • Enforcing a vehicle cell phone ban is nearly impossible This is especially true of hands-free phones, where accused motorists could simply claim to be singing along to the radio or talking to themselves. In any case, the widespread introduction of speed cameras in many countries, and an increased public fear of violent crime have led to the redeployment of the traffic police who would be needed to enforce such laws.


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Economics: What are the economics of a cell phone ban?

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Yes

...That evaluation found that a ban would be worth about $43 billion a year, although the estimate is imprecise and researchers place the range of possible values anywhere from $9 to $193 billion. Those savings would be roughly offset by the economic impact of unmade calls, also estimated to be around $43 billion annually and to range from $17 to $151 billion."


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No


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State authority? Does the state have the authority to limit the liberties of citizens?

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Yes

  • State has authority to regulate actions of drivers (by cell phone ban)., for example, through speed limits, rules against drink driving, etc. Dangerous driving meets the classic liberal test by endangering not just the individual but others, including drivers, passengers and pedestrians, and so society has a right to intervene to protect the innocent. A new law signals social unacceptability, and will send a message to drivers; the New York ban has already been highly effective.


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No

  • Banning cell phones impedes on individual liberties. Mobile phones don’t kill people, bad driving does, and simply banning the use of phones will penalize the many good drivers without removing the dangerous ones.


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Traffic: Can traffic be blamed on cell phone use?

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Yes


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No

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Reality: Is it possible to communicate well without using cell phones in cars?

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Yes

People survived before cell phones. Before cell phones, people lived a successful life without cell phones, and, as society has not changed much, that should still apply now.


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No

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Pro/con videos

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Yes

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No

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Pro/con resources

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Yes

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No

See also

External links

Books:


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