A full state House committee will take up the of issue of calling while driving. A subcommittee last week voted out a bill that would ban text-messaging and using a hand held cell phones while driving. The House Transportation Subcommittee passed the bill on a 6-0 vote, but defeated an amendment to exclude cell phones. The cell phone part will be decided in full committee or on the House floor. Some lawmakers say the support does not exist in the House to ban cell phones while driving.
University of South Carolina psychology researcher Amit Almor has completed two studies that examine how texting and cell phone usage puts demands on the brain’s resources.
Dr. Almor says language and driving are complex activities that tax the brain in many ways, and that texting adds another layer of language and motor skills, which makes for a dangerous combination.
Almore says regular cell phone usage is not in the same category as texting. He has recommended a ban on texting while driving, but not cell phone usage.
(Almor on cell phones Mp3
Almor on cell phones Mp3 1:40
The legislation now being considered by lawmakers in South Carolina would ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving, but not hands-free units. Dr. Almor disagrees with that logic, saying that it’s talking on the phone, more than holding it, which increases risk.
Nineteen states impose bans on texting while driving and 23 limit cell phone use by teens. Approximately 50 countries ban hand-held cell phones while driving.
The National Transportation Safety Administration shows that 11 percent of drivers are using cell phones at any one time, and that cell phone use increases crash risk by four times. One percent of drivers are pushing buttons at any given time, and that includes texting. The Administration’s research indicates that texting increases crash risk by eight times.
But Dr. Almor says when it comes to comparing texting and regular cell phone usage, it’s just a matter of common sense.
The South Carolina Department of Transportation and Department of Public Safety have just begun enforcing a new ban against employees text-messaging while driving state-owned vehicles, including buses and trucks.
While he does not recommend a ban on using handheld cellphones while driving, Dr. Almor says new technology is the answer to decrease risks. Almor also says his research indicates that hands-free devices that could focus the voice of the person on the other end of the line in a certain area in front of the driver might help to reduce distraction and the risk of using cell phones.
The issue is slated for full committee discussion on February 16th at 2:30. The House is off this week due to a furlough.