Spring 2001, p.8

City and State Say Don't Phone and Drive

Both the state legislature and the NYC city council are poised to pass bills that would outlaw the use of handheld cell phones while behind the wheel. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, and Governor Pataki are said to view the statewide ban favorably, and it's likely to pass this session. And despite heavy industry lobbying, City Council Transportation Committee chair Noach Dear has vowed to outlaw the use of handheld phones while driving citywide if the state does not act this year. A recent Quinnipiac University study found that an overwhelming 87% of NY voters and 85% of cell phone users favor a ban on the use of handheld phones while driving.

T.A. called on the City Council and state legislature to make these bills only a first step by expanding the prohibition to include handheld and hand-free phones. Expert studies clearly conclude that using a hand-free cell phone while driving is just as dangerous as using a handheld phone - the problem is the distraction of the conversation itself, not the act of dialing or holding a phone. As detailed in the last issue of the magazine, a 1997 New England Journal of Medicine study found that talking on any type of cell phone while driving quadruples the risk of an accident and is equivalent to the risk of driving drunk. According to the Journal of Medical Decision Making, phoning and driving accounts for 1,729 collisions, 317 injuries, $1 million in health care costs, and $4 million in property damage each day in the U.S. Japan, Israel, Portugal, and Singapore have already banned the use of all cellular phones while driving. It's time for NYC and New York State to do the same.

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