Ohio may ban cell phone use while driving

Leslie Schelat

It happens all the time – someone sits too long at a green light or drives straight through a red one because they are too busy talking on their cell phone to notice.

Ohio may soon be joining a number of other states to increase traffic safety with a ban on hand-held cell phones.

House Bill 274, which prohibits the use of hand-held phones at the wheel of a car, currently is in Ohio’s House Judiciary Committee.

“I think it’s a good idea,” said junior sports management major Ryan McKenna. “It definitely diverts your attention away from the road a lot of times.”

According to a poll conducted by the American Automobile Association, 79 percent of its readers believe that holding a cell phone while driving should be banned.

Safely using cellular phones in cars is becoming an important concern for motorists because 40 percent of cell phone use is done while driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

NHTSA, along with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, conducted a study over one year with 100 cars and drivers to observe driving safety. They found that drivers at fault in crashes, near crashes and other incidents are “far more likely to be using their wireless device than any other distracting activity.”

Steve Gebhardt, senior computer information systems major, believes the cost of headsets will increase because everyone will have to have one. Some cell phone carriers, such as T-Mobile, include hands-free headsets with all phones. Others, such as Verizon Wireless, do not.

“None of our phones come with one,” said Ben Lewis, a retail sales representative with Verizon. “You have to buy them separately. We sell a lot of headsets, though.”

Even with a hands-free headset, drivers are not as aware as those not using cell phones. People with headsets keep their hands on the wheel for the same amount of time (13 percent) but do not look ahead as much.

Ohio is not the first state to question the safety of using cell phones while driving. New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Washington D.C. have passed legislation banning hand-held cell phone use in cars.

After Brooklyn, Ohio, made it illegal to hold a cell phone while driving in 1999, several cities have adopted similar laws.

Not all people are in support of banning hand-held cell phone.

“If you can drive and talk at the same time, it’s no big deal,” Gebhardt said. “I think it’s a hassle to have to buy a headset.”

Gebhardt also thinks there are other in-car distractions that pose just as big of a safety risk.

“People are still going to be playing with the radio and doing other things,” he said.

Contact general assignment reporter Leslie Schelat at [email protected].