2011-12-15 / Editorial

It’s time we ban the use of cell phones while driving

It was perhaps coincidence that I was nearly run over by a cell phone-distracted driver on the same day that the National Transportation Safety Board announced its ground-shaking recommendations regarding mobile devices and driving.

The NTSB this week called for a nationwide ban on all cell phone use by drivers. Some states – like Rhode Island – have already banned texting while driving. A few states have outlawed talking on cell phones while driving.

In Rhode Island it is still legal to talk on your cell phone while operating a motor vehicle. When you see a weaving vehicle on the road, it is probably not a drunk driver but someone talking on a cell phone.

More than 6,000 deaths and a half a million injuries are caused annually by distracted drivers. Experts say more than half of those deaths are blamed on drivers who are talking or texting on their cell phones.

Those are frightening statistics. The death toll is needless and can easily be prevented. In fact, one in six drivers are said to be operating cell phones at any given time.

A large percentage of those deaths are attributed to younger drivers, who are more likely to be texting while driving.

The NTSB is the first federal agency to make such a wholesale recommendation regarding the ban of cell phones and drivers.

Our state legislators should take this recommendation to heart. First, the penalties for texting while driving should be strengthened. Second, talking on cell phones should be banned.

Such a decision will be unpopular with some people even though most of us recognize that operating cell phones while driving is unsafe. But the epidemic of distracted drivers on our nation’s roads must be stemmed. The place to start is in our State House in Providence.

— Jeff McDonough

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