Local News

Cell Phone Use Increases Risk of Accidents, But Users Willing to Take the Risk

Posted November 9, 1999

— Thestate highway patrolsays a driver on a cell phone is to blame for adeadly crashTuesday in Johnston County.

A studyby theInsurance Research Councilsays most cell phone owners believe using one while driving increases the chances of an accident. But for many, the convenience outweighs the dangers.

Businessman Steve Zaytoun has two car phones. "I'm one of the biggest advocates of a car phone," he says.

Zaytoun agrees that many of the millions of cell phone users out there break the rules in their cars and endanger other people. But he says he has "careful car conversation" down to a science.

"This is one of the busiest sections of the beltline, so I try to pay attention," he says. "Also I've learned to dial without looking."

To trooper Beckley Vaughan, using a cell phone at all while driving is a bad idea. "Use of a cell phone, while driving, can be dangerous," Vaughan says.

The only major study done on the dangers of cell phone use and driving suggests using one increases the risk of accidents by 400 percent. That is the same increase created by drinking and driving.

Vaughn is not convinced, though, that a law against cell phone use would help.

"We talk about driving while impaired, and we talk about 'Speed kills' year after year after year after year, and yet people continue to speed and people continue to drive while impaired," Vaughan says. "So if in fact a law passed that banned the use of a cell phone while driving, will it stop it? No, it's not going to stop it."

Zaytoun is among those who would not want it stopped.

"It's a part of my 8- to 10-hour day," he says. "It's my livelihood."

Vaughan says there are a lot of other ways drivers get distracted, like eating in a car, or fixing their hair, and there are no laws against those behaviors.

But Vaughan does point out that people caught driving erratically while using a cell phone can be charged with reckless driving.

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