Currently, each state has different laws regarding the use of cell phones while driving. All states that ban mobile use while driving, allow driver’s to use either their speaker phone or a hands free device. However, this may change as the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is advocating a complete ban of cell phone use while driving.
While the NTSB is just an advocacy group they are a very powerful one that could have their way. On the other side of the debate is the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) who argue that this would be archaic and may have the unintended consequence of increasing accidents rather than preventing them. The IIHS released a report last year stating,
Drivers might have responded to the laws prohibiting texting by moving their phones down and out of sight when they texted, in recognition that what they were doing was illegal. This could exacerbate the risk of texting and drive crash rates up instead of down.
I believe this is right on as there have been a few times I would check my text messages at a stop light and at the same time keep the phone out of view (in case Police are around). I think the combination of hiding the cell phone while using it adds to the distraction factor and may actually increase accidents. This is likely why the Institute points out that accidents caused by driver distraction haven’t gone down in states where the cell phone ban is in effect.
Another point is that enforcing a cell phone ban would be a waste of police resources. How many times have police pulled you over for not wearing your seat belt? I am aware many people have died or caused harm to others as a result of being distracted by their cell phone but I think the onus should be on the driver. I believe instead of making new laws, we should do better public awareness campaigns, similar to the one Oprah did last year.