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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Dangers of driving and talking on cell phones without a hands free device

Dangers of driving and talking on cell phones without a hands free device


Are laws that require drivers to use a Hands Free device for talking on a cell phone making a difference? The state of California and 4 other states thinks so. Effective today, July 1, 2008 if you are driving in the state of California, and want to talk on a wireless phone, you must use a handheld wireless telephone, (according to Vehicle Code (VC) §23123). It is interesting to note that this law affects drivers 18 years of age and older. Drivers that are younger than 18 years of age are not allowed to drive using hand held devices or talk on a wireless phone at all.

California joins four other states, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Washington), the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands in the ban of driving while talking on handheld cell phones. Some may say that about texting while driving, only 4 states have stepped up to the plate and passed laws on banning texting while driving, they include: Alaska, Minnesota, New Jersey and Washington. Several other states have pending legislation on the ban of texting while driving.

Since we are a Florida Law firm, I asked one of our Attorneys, Mark A. Greenberg, his perspective on the impact of hand held cell phones and car accident cases he has handled. He informed me that he has seen accident cases, where the defendant lied about using a cell phone while driving. After getting telephone records, Attorney Mark Greenberg, was able to show that the defendant was on the phone at the time of the accident. It does not pay to lie about things like this, because a Plaintiff's Attorney can get the phone records to determine if a defendant is lying about the use of the cell phone and a car accident. The distraction of a phone call, can cause someone to not pay attention to the road and cause an unfortunate injury to an innocent car accident victim. The Insurance Information Institute cites the following statistics on their site about dangers of driver inattention: An April 2006 study found that almost 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds of the event. The study, was a joint study between the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

In a conversation with the Executive Director of the Dori Slosberg Foundation, Tara Kirschner. I found that the foundation is 100% in favor of making hands free devices a requirement for Florida drivers. Sun Sentinel writer John Kennedy commented in an article that legislation banning the use of cell phones for all drivers was proposed in Florida five years ago, but failed with legislators due to the belief that they would be too much government interference.

However, according to an article in the LA Times, by Myron Levin, a hands free cell phone law, may not make the roads safer. He quotes Arthur Goodwin, a researcher at the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center, as saying "There’s a common misperception that hands-free phones are safer when the research clearly suggests that they they’re both equally risky”. I find this interesting that Mr. Goodwin and other scientists would say that hands-free laws could actually make things worse by encouraging drivers to make more or longer calls. I must state for the record that I find this statement a bit of a stretch, I am sure that a lot of people will agree.

Indeed, federal highway safety officials drafted a letter from then-Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta to the nation’s governors in 2003 to warn against laws like California’s that allow hands-free calling. For reasons never fully explained, the letter was neither signed by Mineta nor sent. According to the bluntly worded letter, obtained by The Times, “overwhelmingly, research worldwide indicates that both hand-held and hands-free phones increase the risk of a crash.” 


Back in 2003, supposedly there was a smoking gun letter from the Secretary of Transportation warning against laws that promote the use of hands-free calling. According to the reporters at the Times, they came across a letter that was neither signed nor sent that stated, “overwhelmingly, research worldwide indicates that both hand-held and hands-free phones increase the risk of a crash". I will let you form your own conclusion about this piece of evidence.

If you are a Florida driver, and find the need to use a cell phone while driving, please be careful and respectful of others on the roadway. Here are a few tips that you can follow to make your drive a safer experience for everyone from the American Automobile Association (AAA)
Familiarize yourself with the features of your cell phone before you get behind the wheel.
Use the cell phone only when absolutely necessary.
Keep converstions short - especially in heavy traffic or bad weather.
Tell the person that you are speaking with that you are driving. 
Do not have emotional or heated conversations while driving.
Do not engage in multiple distracting activities such as talking on your cell phone while driving, eating and tending to a child.

Use a hands free device and secure your phone in the car.

Exercise caution while using a cell phone and using a cell phone. Think Safety First and about operating your vehicle safely while sharing the roadway with others. If you must use your cell phone while driving, do so with caution.

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