Not this way

Morgan Day

Laws aimed at preventing distractions while driving experience mixed reactions

Multitasking while driving is one reason why the teen traffic fatality rate is four times that of adults.

Leslie Cusano | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: Ron Soltys

To multitaskers and those who list “driving with my knees” as one of their skills, a new measure being considered in some states might put those talents in check.

In Vermont, lawmakers are looking to ban eating, drinking, smoking, reading, writing, personal grooming, playing instruments, playing with pets and using cell phones or other communication devices while driving, reported a recent Associated Press article.

According to the story, Maryland and Texas are considering similar bills, and Connecticut just passed a law banning any activity that could interfere with one’s driving.

Jaleshea Cobbs, sophomore integrated social studies major, said back home in the Maryland/Washington, D.C. area, no one abides by the “no-cell-phone law” though she gets distracted if she’s driving and talking with a cell phone to her ear. Instead, she chooses to text message.

“If I text, it’s not as distracting because I’ve memorized all the keys,” she said.

However, if Cobbs is a passenger with a driver who is texting, she becomes worried.

“I’m not in control of the vehicle, so I’m like, ‘OK, could you stop that now?'” she said.

Sergeant Don Dunbar of the Ravenna Highway Patrol said he doesn’t see how the restrictive driving laws, such as the one being considered in Vermont, can be enforced.

“You could ask people not to do that,” he said, “but on a professional or personal basis, I don’t think that’s a viable law.”

Junior conservation major Zack Ankney said what people do while driving should depend upon their judgment, not legislation.

“Smoking?” Ankney said, questioning one of the potential restrictions. “Unless you drop (the cigarette) on your lap and you’re flailing to get it away,” it shouldn’t be a problem.

Dunbar said a lot of accidents are a result of a lack of attention – a main distraction being cell phones. He said it is not illegal to use a cell phone while driving in Ohio, but it is illegal to have an earpiece in each ear.

When it comes to teens and driving, Dunbar suggested they put down the phone and concentrate on the road. He said younger drivers should ask themselves how necessary it is to have cell phone conversations while driving.

“It doesn’t take much on a narrow, two-lane road to drift left of center when you’re not paying attention,” Dunbar said, adding a person’s reaction time is a second and a half at best. “It could make the difference between stopping for the train or not.”

According to the Associated Press, 90 percent of teens said they rarely or never drive after drinking or using drugs. However, they listed a slew of distractions that researchers said make distractions the No. 1 killer of U.S. teens.

More than half the teens surveyed said they had seen peers not only talking on a cell phone while driving, but using hand-held games and sending text messages.

Ankney said he has seen men use electric shavers while driving. He’s also seen many people driving far too slowly on the highway and cutting off other vehicles.

Tips for Driving while Talking on the Phone:

– Keep the phone within a comfortable reach at all times.

– Memorize the phone’s keypad.

– Use a hands-free system with voice-activated or speed dialing.

– Never look up numbers when driving.

– Dial numbers in short sequences when not moving or have a passenger dial.

– Do not engage is stressful or emotional conversations.

Source: The Ohio State Highway Patrol

“Then you see they’re on their cell phone,” Ankney said. “Of course.”

Contact safety reporter Morgan Day at [email protected].