When driving, no calls at all

March 22, 2011 

I witnessed a cellphone-driving accident involving two UNC students in which the driver ran directly into a pedestrian. The driver had "inattention blindness" from driving while using a cellphone.

The graph above from the UNC Highway Safety Research Center shows that cellphone driving provides the same risk as driving drunk, and does so whether the phone is hand-held or hands-free. The distraction is mental, not manual.

Three bills are now proposed to ban cellphone driving in North Carolina. Discussing them, House Speaker Thom Tillis states that hands-free cellphone driving is acceptable. While no legislator would suggest that his child drink a six-pack then drive, according to the science, this is essentially what Tillis advocates.

I ask the General Assembly to pass a complete ban on the use of cellphones while driving. Legislators may disagree with banning hands-free phones, but there are only two ways they logically can. They may reject the science, looking like tobacco executives rejecting the cigarette-cancer link. Alternatively, they may accept the science, but find something else more important, e.g., political support. In this case, I ask them to describe one phone call from their car that is important enough to justify endangering lives to the same extent as a drunk driver.

Joe Capowski

Chapel Hill

The writer is a former member of the Chapel Hill Town Council.

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