Motorists can't talk on cell phone, drive safely at same time

-- The Seattle Times - Feb. 27

Posted: Wednesday, March 07, 2001

A motorist tries to change lanes on the highway when another driver, yammering on a cell phone, cuts in front, nearly causing a wreck. Good grief. Hang up and drive.

Cell-phone frustrations have moved from bumper stickers to legislation. Thirty-five states, including Washington, are considering bills to restrict hand-held car phones. Three bills in Olympia have limited chance of success this year, but something has to give.

One bill would impose a $35 fine on a driver using a cell phone that leads to a crash. The other would ban hand-held cell phones, with exceptions for motorists reporting drunken drivers or summoning emergency help. Another would phase in hands-free car phones over three years. ...

This issue is ripe for compromise. With 110 million cell-phone users, and more signing up every day, cell phones are here to stay. They save lives; they're a convenience people won't give up. ...

The best approach is a presumption of negligence on the cell-phone user. Nebraska is considering such a bill. That combined with a move toward more hands-free phoning is a smart way to go.

A law that presumes negligence for cell-phone users places responsibility where it belongs: the person who bet -- and bet wrongly -- he or she could talk and drive safely at the same time.

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