Local News

UNC researchers: Ban cell phones while driving

Posted May 10, 2010 4:51 p.m. EDT
Updated May 10, 2010 6:37 p.m. EDT

—  Lawmakers banned texting while driving last year. Now, researchers say it might be time to ban all cell phone use behind the wheel.

 Arthur Goodwin, a senior research associate for the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center, recently briefed state lawmakers about the dangers of talking while driving.

"The research shows that if you're talking on a cell phone while driving, you're four times more likely to be in a crash," Goodwin said Monday, adding that is the same risk of being in a crash if a person were drunk.

The research also shows that using a hands-free cell phone is just as dangerous as using a hand-held phone

"It's not holding a phone that makes it dangerous," Goodwin said. "It's that you're splitting your attention."

It's still unclear if the matter would be taken up in the Legislature, but it would likely not happen in the upcoming short session, said Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, who sits on the Senate Transportation Committee.

State law already bans drivers from text messaging or sending e-mails with their cell phones. Under the law, drivers have to either pull over or wait until they have stopped their vehicle before texting or sending an e-mail. Violators face a $100 fine, plus court costs.

California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia ban talking on a hand-held device for all drivers, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

In all of those territories except Washington state, police can pull over and ticket a driver for cell phone use.