Cell phone limits make sense

Posted: Thursday, July 05, 2001

The following editorial appeared in Monday's Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Listening to cell phone lobbyists, you'd think the push to regulate their industry is positively un-American.

We'd buy that if cell phones were being used in vehicles as originally intended -- to call a tow truck when the car breaks down on the highway or to let the family know you'll be late for dinner.

But Americans can't get enough of a good thing, so they've turned cell phones into a hazard that's worthy of regulation by the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission. ...

The verdict is unanimous that holding a phone to the ear in traffic significantly increases the risk of crashing. Most of the reasons are intuitive -- slower reaction time (typically by half a second), poorer hazard perception, weaving within and out of lanes, more erratic speeds and poorer visual tracking.

That's why the New York Assembly's passage of a ban on hand-held phones throughout the state ought to be emulated by Washington legislators, who have toyed with the idea for several sessions. ...

Opponents of proposed bans are correct that other driver distractions -- eating, drinking, reading, shaving, applying makeup -- should concern us just as much. They do.

This particular danger, though, has morphed way out of proportion in a very short time. It deserves to be singled out.

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