It’s already been discussed here that a recent study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that cellphone bans do not appear to lower the incidence of traffic accidents. Even so, Maryland legislators are still moving toward a proposed law that will ban hand-held use of cellphones and mobile devices when operating a motor vehicle.
Anything that can reduce automobile and trucking-related highway crashes would be a good thing, since thousands of people are killed in traffic wrecks every year around the U.S. As a Baltimore car accident attorney, I’m on the side of the victims and I know that every driver should be doing his or her part to cut down on the carnage on our public roads.
I’ve seen what can happen to the occupants of a passenger car when it’s hit by another vehicle. Cuts and bruises are the least of the injuries a person can sustain in a crash. Traumatic brain injury is common, as is damage to the neck and spine, any of which can put a person in a wheelchair sometimes for the rest of their life. The question here is would a ban on hand-held cellphones be too much of burden, even if it saved the life of just one person?
Consider your answer carefully because the life you save may be your own, or that of a loved one. An editorial in the Baltimore Sun speaks to this very issue as Maryland faces a ban on hand-held cellphone use.
Of course, nearly every motorist at one time or another has seen all manner of vehicle being driven hazardously. This includes instances of failure to yield where appropriate, drifting into oncoming traffic or suddenly making a turn without an appropriate use of turn signals. I’ll wager that, at least in the past 10 years, these kinds of activities may well have been caused by a so-called distracted driver with a cellphone to his or her ear.
The new Maryland law would restrict driver cellphone use to only hands-free devices. Although it isn’t quite clear that such technology (usually a headset or vehicle-mounted microphone/speaker arrangement) improves matters much, but it may be the new law of the land as Maryland joins the growing number of jurisdictions that ban drivers from using hand-helds.
According to the National Safety Council, driving while talking or texting on the phone results in an estimated 1.6 million crashes each year, or about one-quarter of all accidents nationwide. The NSC says it increases a driver’s risk of crashing four-fold.
This is certainly not something to be taken lightly. And regardless of the results of the IIHS study, we may all be reciting that old saw, “Better safe than sorry” while keeping both hands on the wheel and our eyes on what’s ahead of us.
Ending crash calls, BaltimoreSun.com, March 29, 2010