OPINION - Banning Hands Free Cellphone Use While Driving
Paul Hergott of Hergott Law in Kelowna is a very active road safety advocate. His firm specializes in personal injury services exclusively so Paul has extensive experience dealing with the aftermath of collisions. Based on that experience, he has decided to focus on the law that prohibits cell phone use while driving only if the phone is being held in your hand. It sends the dangerous message to drivers that “It’s perfectly ok, and safe, to chat away on a cell phone while driving as long as you are on Bluetooth or using other hands free technology”.
1. PROPOSITION: Cell phone use while driving is dangerous - it’s relatively easy to get people on board for that proposition;
2. PROPOSITION: Hands free cell phone use causes the same level of distraction as hand held – that’s the HARD ONE;
3. PROPOSITION: By banning HAND HELD cell phone use while driving, as of January 1, 2010, and leaving the HANDS FREE version perfectly legal, we:
a. Are TEACHING drivers that hands free cell phone use is SAFE;
b. Are doing NOTHING to discourage hands free cell phone use;
c. Are simply pushing people to spend the money on hands free technology;
d. Are OVERALL causing cell phone use while driving to INCREASE instead of decrease.
4. PROPOSITION: By significantly raising the penalties for HAND HELD cell phone use as of June 1, 2016, we have EMPHASIZED/EXACERBATED the impact of Proposition No. 3.
5. PROPOSITION: By ENFORCING the HAND HELD BAN to ANY DEGREE we are continuing to EMPHASIZE/EXACERBATE the impact of Proposition No. 3.
SO….Proposition 2….is hands free cell phone use just as distracting as hands free?
Before passing the law to ban ONLY HAND HELD cell phone use, the British Columbia government did a survey of the SCIENCE. That survey is set out in this paper published by the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles. In that paper:
1. They acknowledged that the science supported Proposition 2. See on page 3: “Evidence also concludes that there is no difference between the cognitive diversion associated with hands-free and hand-held cell phone use.”; and
2. Specifically raised the RISK of Proposition 3. See on page 18: “Legislation that bans only hand-held cell conversations conflicts with the research that has consistently found no difference in the degree of distraction between hand-held and hands-free cell conversations. As a result, these laws may not provide the expected benefits and may even generate harmful indirect impacts such as a false sense of security for those who talk on hands-free devices while driving.”
How to best understand the science? There is this wonderful “White Paper” put out by the United States National Safety Council. I ask you to please take the time to read that paper. It is REALLY interesting stuff.
The law has to change to ban all cell phone use while driving. I’ve started an on line petition at Change.org asking the B.C. Governement to implement that ban.