A Call to Action: Regulate Use of Cell Phones on the Road

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David *******
English 101-B
14 March 2004
A Call to Action:
Regulate Use of Cell Phones on the Road
When a cell phone goes off in a classroom or at a concert, we are irritated, but at least our lives are not endangered. When we are on the road, however, irresponsible cell phone users are more than irritating: They are putting our lives at risk. Many of us have witnessed drivers so distracted by dialing and chatting that they resemble drunk drivers, weaving between lanes, for example, or nearly running down pedestrians in crosswalks. A number of bills to regulate use of cell phones on the road have been introduced in state legislatures, and the time has come to push for their passage. Regulation is needed because drivers using phones are seriously impaired and because laws on negligent and reckless driving are not sufficient to punish offenders.

No one can deny that cell phones have caused traffic deaths
and injuries. Cell phones were implicated in three fatal accidents in November 1999 alone. Early in November, two-year-old Morgan Pena was killed by a driver distracted by his cell phone. Morgan's mother, Patti Pena, reports that the driver "ran a stop sign at 45 mph, broadsided my vehicle and killed Morgan as she sat in her car seat." A week later, corrections officer Shannon Smith, who was guarding prisoners by the side of the road, was killed by a woman distracted by a phone call (Besthoff). On Thanksgiving weekend Title is centered.

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Source: Diana Hacker (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2004).
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that same month, John and Carole Hall were killed when a Naval Academy midshipman crashed into their parked car. The driver said in court that when he looked up from the cell phone he was dial- ing, he was three feet from the car and had no time to stop

(Stockwell B8).
Expert testimony, public opinion, and even cartoons suggest
that driving while phoning is dangerous. Frances Bents, an expert on the relation between cell phones and accidents, estimates that between 450 and 1,000 crashes a year have some connection to cell phone use (Layton C9). In a survey published by Farmers In- surance Group, 87% of those polled said that cell phones affect a driver's ability, and 40% reported having close calls with drivers distracted by phones. Many cartoons have depicted the very real dangers of driving while distracted (see Fig. 1).

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Fig. 1. Chan Lowe, cartoon, Washington Post 22 July 2000: A21. Page 3
Source: Diana Hacker (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2004).
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Scientific research confirms the dangers of using phones
while on the road. In 1997 an important study appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine. The authors, Donald Redelmeier and Robert Tibshirani, studied 699 volunteers who made their cell phone bills available in order to confirm the times when they had placed calls. The participants agreed to report any nonfatal colli- sion in which they were involved. By comparing the time of a col- lision with the phone records, the researchers assessed the dangers of driving while phoning. Here are their results:

We found that using a cellular telephone was associ-
ated with a risk of having a motor vehicle collision
that was about four times as high as that among the
same drivers when they were not using their cellular
telephones. This relative risk is similar to the hazard
associated with driving with a blood alcohol level at
the legal limit. (456)
In reports by news media, the latter...
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