Sunday, July 19, 2009

Dallas City Council needs to expand mobile phone ban

The Dallas City Council claims public safety is its No. 1 priority. That's why, for example, even when facing a $190 million budget deficit, the council will want to continue hiring 200 new police officers next year while reserving the program cutbacks for parks, libraries, streets and the like.

A while ago, the council enacted a ban on the use of mobile devices by drivers of motor vehicles in school zones, presumably under the argument that it's more dangerous for a driver to text someone while driving 20 miles an hour in a school zone than while doing 70 on LBJ. But if the council really was that concerned about public safety it would demonstrate the leadership and the courage to enact this ban city-wide. I bring this up now because of what I read in today's New York Times:

"Extensive research shows the dangers of distracted driving. Studies say that drivers using phones are four times as likely to cause a crash as other drivers, and the likelihood that they will crash is equal to that of someone with a .08 percent blood alcohol level, the point at which drivers are generally considered intoxicated. Research also shows that hands-free devices do not eliminate the risks, and may worsen them by suggesting that the behavior is safe. "

There's plenty of evidence to support these claims.

According to a Harvard study conducted six years ago, according to the Times, "cellphone distractions caused 2,600 traffic deaths every year, and 330,000 accidents that result in moderate or severe injuries."

The Dallas City Council took a necessary first step by banning the use of mobile devices by drivers in school zones. But that's like tipping the big toe in the pool to test the water temperature. Well, the temperature must be fine because no one I know is talking about removing this ban; so now is the time to take the plunge and really take actions to protect the safety of the public.

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