Should the Use of Cell Phones by Drivers Be Outlawed?

A lot of studies on the use of cell phones by drivers show that driving when communicating with these gadgets can be hazardously distracting. Still, a lot of countries are yet to outlaw handheld cell-phones whilst driving, again no country has prohibited hands-free devices while driving.“Half a dozen states and the District of Columbia prohibit driving while holding a phone; currently 14 states and the District of Columbia ban texting while driving” (Horrey & Wickens, 2006).

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On the other hand, opponents to the laws barring cell phone use while driving say, cell-phone prohibitions are just not enforceable. Others disagree by saying, drivers do a lot of distracting actions when driving; these activities they say include, eating, conversing with children in back seats, listening to radios and some do have LCD screens showing videos in their vehicles. Based on this argument, they say it makes no sense to prohibit one activity that is cell phone usage. This paper will therefore discuss the issue of outlawing cell phone usage by drivers.

Cell phone usage when driving has been a hotly disputed matter for a considerably long time, and conflicting laws are present in different nations regarding this matter. Several people still argue that, receiving and making calls with cell phones while driving is absolutely safe, and that it ought to be legalized. Many others believe that making calls while driving is distracting, they say this action can cause accidents and collisions. While studies tend to be in favor of the latter, “there are still many places in the world that have no laws regarding this issue, and the debate rages on” (Strayer & William, 2001).

Distracted driving accidents, as a result of cell-phone usage and texting rocketed in a gap of 3 years, as shown the American government research. “Text-messaging caused more than 16,000 deaths in car accidents from 2001 to 2007, the researchers estimated. Auto deaths involving cell-phones and texting while driving rose by 28 percent in just three years, from 4,572 in 2005 to 5,870 in 2008” (Strayer & William, 2001).

A lot of studies currently suggest that cell phones should be prohibited while driving. The reason for this is that they distract drivers interfering with their concentration and thus slowing their reactions in emergency situations. There is indisputable proof in this research showing that, a split-second distraction can cause fetal accidents even for the best drivers. The study also shows that even if one is not using a cell phone in the car and it rings it still distracts the driver who also finds it hard to ignore it.

In a lot of nations, it is illegal to use a cell phone while driving with no hands-free sets, so that the drivers keep their hands on the steering wheel. Many countries on the other hand, aren’t really implementing these laws that firmly.

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People who oppose laws forbidding phone usage while driving believes that, some professionals need to use their cell phones at all times. “For example someone who runs a delivery service and is generally always on the road without much time to regularly stop to talk to customers. Hands-free technology however is a solution to this” (McEvoy, 2009). With this, drivers do not necessarily have to take their hands off the wheel. Conversely, the use of these devices still distracts to some extent even if it is a bit safer. Some countries have even forbidden these sets because someone can convey bad news to the driver who can get distracted and cause an accident.

Since there is no logical proof that cell phones and hands-free devices are safe to use while driving, countries are currently enacting strict laws to the extent of death trials, for drivers who cause accidents whilst using cell phones. However, drivers might be allowed to use these devices if only they are waiting for important information i.e. death and sickness.

As much as this is true, some people still oppose the laws prohibiting cell phone usage while driving. Their arguments have been based on known statistics that are easily accessible. In the U.S for example, cell phone subscribers augmented by 1,262.4% in the period of 23 years from 1985-2008. In about the same time, accidents decreased by 0.9% with fatal ones falling by 6.2%. “It has been argued that these statistics contradict the claims that mobile use impairs driving performance. Similarly, studies done in Washington D.C before and after prohibition show no decrease in accidents despite the decrease in cell phone usage” (Styrayer, 2008).

People who oppose these laws often believe there are more distracting activities than mobile phone usage. These are like conversations, listening to music, and billboards among others, and that cell-phone usage is only one activity. They believe technological devices like hands-free sets are safe enough to use and they are an alternative to direct usage. They go further to state that, drivers are seen to converse with their passengers and this is the same situation as the hands-free sets. These people suggest that, strict tests should be put in place to examine drivers before they are given licenses to determine competency instead of depriving all people of their rights because of the inability of a few individuals.

Accidents involving drivers who get distracted while talking on cell phones are presently being accused of negligence comparable to intoxicated drivers. In the U.K, as of 27th Feb 2007, drivers caught using handheld cell phones whilst driving, “have 3 penalty points added to their license in addition to the fine of £60” (Caird, 2009). These laws were initiated to stem out the rise in drivers who ignore cell-phone usage while driving regulations. “Israel, Japan, Portugal and Singapore prohibit all mobile phone use while driving, including use of hands-free devices. New Zealand banned hand-held cell phone use from 1 November 2009.

Many states in the United States have banned texting on cell phones while driving” (Champion, 2010). As of July this year, thirty states had outlawed texting whilst driving, while most only allow hands-free usage and cell phone usage only at certain times.

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As shown in this paper, cell phone usage looks undoubtedly unsafe, but this matter is still hotly debated by those who propose usage and those who oppose it. Those who propose usage believe there are a lot of other activities that can cause hazardous distraction and that this is only one activity among them. They also say people who can cause accidents when using these devices are incompetent and therefore measures should be put in place to examine competent drivers. However any activity that can cause an accident is hazardous and bad, and therefore should be prohibited.

Cell phone usage whilst driving is common but unsafe. As a result of this, various jurisdictions have made using cell phones whilst driving unlawful. Some more have passed laws to outlaw handheld cell phone usage but permit hands-free device usage. In other cases, constraints are only intended for minors or newly qualified drivers. Surprisingly in other nations, there are no laws prohibiting cell phone usage while driving, while in other states cell phone usage is only prohibited at certain hours.

References

Caird, J. (2009). Laws prohibiting cell-phone usage while driving in the U.K. London: McGraw Hill.

Champion, D. (2010). Cell-phone usage while driving. Automobile testing, 12 (2) 23-36.

Horrey, W., & Wickens, C. (2006). Examining the Impact of Cell Phone Conversations on Driving Using Meta-Analytic Techniques. Human Factors, 38 (1), 196–205.

McEvoy, S. (2009). Hands-free an alternative for cell-phone ban. New York. Sage Publication.

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Styrayer, D.L. (2008). Cell-phone use prohibition shows no decrees in accidents. Psychological Science, 13 (8), 462–466.

Strayer D. L. & William J. A. (2001). “Driven to distraction: Dual-Task Studies of the Dangers of Conversing on a Cellular Telephone.” Psychological Science, 2 (12), 462–466.

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