October 25, 2008

Handsfree Cellphone Driving Ban in the Works

CARS - Ontario will join other Canada provinces Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Quebec in banning cellphone use while driving. Transport Minister Jim Bradley will be seeking to prohibit all use of phones, BlackBerrys and GPS devices by drivers in the province.

The Ontario Liberal government will introduce a bill to ban electronic distractions next Tuesday. Previous attempts to introduce private member's bills banning cellphones have failed.

The reports say the law will likely only apply to those behind the wheel and not passengers in the front or back seat. Brian Patterson of the Ontario Safety League told CityTV getting drivers to go along with the law will be a challenge for police.

The law is being pushed by various drivers associations and a variety of studies which have shown hands-free cellphone use is just as dangerous as taking your hands off the wheel because the driver's attention to the road drops significantly.

Hands-free chat while driving just as dangerous: study

Researchers from Dalhousie University in Halifax found that talking on a cellphone, even using a handsfree device such as a headset or Bluetooth technology, negatively affects driving performance — especially in detecting and identifying events on the road.

The study, which reviewed more than two dozen scientific papers that looked at the effects of both types of cellphone use on driving, found that some drivers alter their driving style — particularly speed — when using a handheld device.

Drivers who use hands-free devices, however, did not.

"When you are talking on a hands-free phone you tend not to slow down," said Yoko Ishigami, a Killam scholar in Dalhousie's experimental psychology department and the study's lead author. More speed, she said, means more mistakes and more accidents.

"When people drive with a hands-free phone they tend not to compensate because they actually think it's safer, said Dalhousie researcher Raymond Klein.

Both said the research shows why any cellphone use in a vehicle should be banned, hands-free or not.

"We actually drive with our minds … and if our minds are busy, then we might make mistakes in driving," Klein said.

About 50 countries — from Australia to Zimbabwe — restrict the use of cellphones while driving. Some of the bans date back as far as 1998.

Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Quebec have all banned hand-held cellphones for drivers, while still allowing people to use the hands-free devices. Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba and P.E.I. are considering similar moves. Newfoundland discourages it strongly.

Transport Canada also recommends that people shouldn't use any cellphone while driving.

Newfoundland's Government Services Minister Kevin O'Brien said the government, which enacted its ban six years ago, knows hands-free cellphone use while driving is dangerous.

He said the government didn't make include hands-free use in its ban, because it would be too difficult to prosecute people accused of violating the law.

Michael Joliffe is just one of many Canadians who used their hands-free device while driving, particularly as he traveled to and from work.

"That 150 kilometres a day I would drive, it was a great time to talk on the phone."

He said he stopped doing it, however, when one day he drove from Oakville to Richmond Hill, talking on his phone all the way, and couldn't remember how he got home.

Research conducted by the Ontario Medical Association has found that cellphone use puts drivers at significantly greater risk of collision, regardless of whether they use a hands-free or hand-held phone.

The findings showed that cellphone driving can pose nearly the same risks as driving while at the legal limit for alcohol.

The United States meanwhile is still coping with cellphones in general and is currently banning people from using handhelds while driving. The legislation hasn't caught up with the idea of banning cellphone use entirely while driving because banning hands-free is so much more difficult to enforce.

Why not wait until you're at WORK before you speak with clients? Afterall what is the point of having those fancy Business Phones if you don't use them properly? Besides, who really wants to talk business on a cellphone where you have to worry about your minutes, running out of battery power and a bad connection?

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