Cell phone ban* has huge loophole

As if its outrageous property values aren’t already tax-tastic enough, Highland Park may soon enhance its traffic ticket profits by giving its cops another reason to hassle motorists: a proposed ordinance will ban cell phone use* within active school zones.

Why the asterisk? *Not applicable when hands-free mode used.

It’s a two-faced ordinance: you can’t talk on a cell phone but you can talk on a cell phone if you use your hands free unit.

But wait, you say, isn’t this about safety? Don’t you need your hands on the wheel?

The “inattention blindness” is equivalent for any cell phone user, so hand placement has minimal bearing on cell phone-related motorist safety. Several studies affirm this equal risk:

  • “Driving impairment was just as bad regardless of whether participants used hands-free or hand-held cell phones.” (source)
  • “…using a cell phone while driving is a major cause of traffic accidents, and that hands-free devices have little safety benefit.” (source)
  • “…banning hand-held phone use won’t necessarily enhance safety if drivers simply switch to hands-free phones. Injury crash risk didn’t differ from one type of reported phone use to the other.” (source)
  • “…motorists who talk on both handheld and hands-free cell phones are as impaired as drunken drivers.” (source)
  • “…headsets and other hands-free devices are just as unsafe as any other type of cell phone.” (source)
  • Etc.

By only banning “handed” cell phone use, Highland Park would tacitly endorse an unsafe activity.

Additionally, the law would concentrate profit enhancement punishment on those too poor or technologically unsophisticated to have hands free units, even though these groups may be equally unsafe as hands-free users.

I’ll close with an analogy: suppose a city has a river with too-low, flood-prone levees on each side. Banning only “handed” cell phone use is like only fortifying one levee. The net effect is minimal because whatever water would have flooded over the fortified levee will instead spill over the other, unfortified levee.

Highland Park should either leave the levees alone or fortify both levees. Only fortifying one levee–banning one unsafe activity while encouraging another unsafe activity–makes no sense, except as an anti-motorist profit ploy.

3 thoughts on “Cell phone ban* has huge loophole”

  1. There’s some bias if I ever see it. How much research did you do on the counterpoint of hand verses headset phone chats? No studies out there show that headsets are safer than handed cell phone usage while driving?

    I think you could make similar or related arguments against listening to the radio or having passengers in the car. Why don’t we just limit vehicles to one driver per car with no passengers? There’s no safer scenario than that.

  2. I could only find one study supporting hands free use. It was industry-sponsored and run by a commercial enterprise, so there’s a good shot it is not credible.

    The tide is clearly against any kind of cell phone use. Check Google.

    I did find one study which I didn’t cite, but it quantified several kinds of risk. I recall it found that fiddling with knobs raised crash risk something like 900%, whereas cell phone use increased crash risk by far, far less.

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