Safety group: Cell ban may curb accidents

While a ban on using cell phones in cars could be a pain for some drivers, one Mower County group says it would definitely help decrease distracted driving accidents.

The National Transportation Safety Board declared Tuesday that texting, emailing or chatting while driving is too dangerous to be allowed anywhere in the United States. It urged all states to impose total bans except for emergencies.

Mower County Safe Communities Coalition coordinator Amanda Stoa said laws previously passed to decrease distracted driving have been successful.

“From the facts I’ve seen, there’s been a decrease in distracted driving,” Stoa said. “Over the course of (law enforcement) paying attention to the distracted driving laws, accidents caused by distracted driving has been reduced by 35 percent.”

The problem with an all-encompassing ban, including hands-free devices, would be enforcing it, according to Stoa. Because many drivers talk to themselves or sing along to music in the car, it could be difficult for law enforcement officers to tell the difference between singing drivers and those talking on the phone.

A ban against hands-free devices could be beneficial, though, if the enforcement aspect works, Stoa said.

“When you’re driving with a passenger, as opposed to driving on the phone, a big question is ‘what’s the difference?’” Stoa said. “But with a passenger, the passenger can see what’s going on around (the driver). When you’re talking on the phone, the other person doesn’t know what’s going on around you as the driver.”

Sheriff Terese Amazi echoed Stoa’s words, saying it would be difficult to enforce a hands-free ban.

“I’m not opposed to it,” Amazi said. “But it’s going to be difficult knowing whether someone is taking to themselves or on the phone.”

Amazi said the law will be a tough sell both due to the enforcement aspect and because so many people do business in their vehicles. However, just having the law in place would likely reduce distracted driving because some drivers would fear the consequences of a ticket, she said.

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