The National Transportation Safety Board is calling for a complete ban on cell phone use by drivers — not just the restriction on use of hand-held phones recently adopted in Evanston and across Illinois.

The safety agency says that even when used hands-free, cell phones lead to distraction-related accidents.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Evanston aldermen can’t like this

    This is not good news for Evanston aldermen and city employees who are exempt from the city cell phone ordinance.

    Federal law trumps city law. If the NTSB bans cell phone while driving Evanston aldermen and city employees will have to pull over to talk on their cell phones like the rest of us.

    Oh Lord, life is so unfair.

    1. Libertarian tendancies

      How well is the current cell phone ban being enforced?  I agree we will be safer with an expansion of the current law but how effective are laws that are not even being properly enforced. 

      1. Pretty well, I’d say. I’ve

        Pretty well, I'd say. I've been stopped twice, and ticketed once. 

        Learning my lesson…. 🙂

    2. I didn’t know that

      city employees and aldermen were exempt from city ordinances. If true, this is fairly obscene.

      1. Fact check

        When it comes to "facts" reported by A.A., take them with a grain of salt and do your own due diligence…

        Enacting a New Section 10-3-13 of the Evanston City Code,
        “Use of Mobile Telephones While Operating a Motor Vehicle”

        "(C) The provisions of this Section shall not apply to:

        1. Any person using a mobile telephone or on-board communications device
        for non-personal use in the course of ordinary business in their employment with a City,
        State or Federal agency or authority."

        A.A. has decided to beat the dead horse repeatedly by claiming that this "exemption" applies specifically to council members and places city employees "above the law."

        Now, should those folks who ARE using cell phones for "non-personal use in the course of ordinary business in their employment" use good judgement and pull over to make calls if possible?  Sure.  Just don't go looking for non-existent conspiracies or perks.  We have bigger fish to fry.

  2. Traffic fatalities trending downward

    There's little doubt that there are tons of distracted drivers on the road every day. I think any driver who's at all aware can tell you that. Yet, despite this traffic fatalities keep trending downward. I don't get it. I will say that the majority of people I see driving while talking on the phone (not texting) are just driving too slow. They're not swerving or blowing off stop lights. They're annoying more than being a hazard. That's my experience.

  3. Get off the phone.

    It should be written as a distracted driving ticket,which includes anything that is distracting you from driving.I find myself drinking water or changing a CD while driving which is distracting me from driving,which I need to change.Over five thousand die every year from just texting and cell phone use while driving.

    1. Cell phone fact check

      The NTSB estimates 3,000 deaths every year from distracted driving.  Not 5000 from cell phones and texting.

      From smartmotorist.com:

      A late 1970s Indiana University study of "Precrash factors involved in traffic accidents" identified driver inattention as the leading cause of automobile accidents. On a recent CNN "Talkback Live" program that dealt with driver distraction, Mark Edwards, Director of Traffic Safety at the American Automobile Association stated, "The research tells us that somewhere between 25-50 percent of all motor vehicle crashes in this country really have driver distraction as their root cause." Csaba Csere, editor of Car and Driver magazine continued," I don't think we're being misled, but I think we need to keep these statistics in context. When we talk about 20-50 percent of accidents being caused by driver distractions, that isn't quite what the study said. And that study said they're factors." He continues "… safety experts tell us that half the accidents are caused by drunk driving, 70 percent are caused by aggressive drivers, 30 percent are caused by speeding. All of a sudden, you know, we've got more causes than accidents, and it's very, very difficult to decide exactly what the causes are." Csere offered the following advice "…the most important safety factor is a competent driver paying attention to the task behind the wheel. Unfortunately, we're always going to be distracted by certain things, and the key is picking your spots. Don't try to dial your cell phone when you're on an icy road. Don't tune the radio when you're negotiating traffic in a complicated intersection."


      1. Cell phone fact check again

        NTSB said 3.092 deaths on the highway from distracted driving in 2010,read it again that is just highway.I meant 5000 + distracted deaths not cell phone texting deaths my bad.Harvard study 2009 on texting and cell phone use while driving,2.600 deaths 570.000 accidents. Even if it is as low as 1000 deaths a year,you have to act on it now.

        1. I don’t think it requires

          I don't think it requires action of any kind.  I think the cat is out of the bag on this issue.  The potential distractions only multiply over time.  I don't think cell phones are any more distracting then the giant navigation screen stuck to the windshield, trying to eat a burger and steering with your knees, or changing the station on the radio.  You can't legislate complete safety.  There will always be accidents due to distracted driving, just like there always has been.

          I don't want my representatives, at any level, wasting my $ by taking any time to discuss these things.  They have bigger fish to fry, 

          1. Me me me

            You say distracted driving only multiply over time,that is the idea of banning cell phone use while driving so it stops multiplying over time.You also say you can't legislate complete safety,the law will not legislate complete safety,but will make are streets safer and save thousands of lives. Three words for you me me me.If we can spend trillion of dollars for 9-11 to save lives,we can spend for a pen to sign a piece of paper to save thousands of lives.

          2. Not safer, no fewer accidents

            The facts show that bans do nothing to increase safety or reduce accidents (see the "from the Insurance Institute" comment following this story).  These bans don't save lives or reduce accidents (places that enacted texting bans had more crashes!).  More comprehensive driver education and driver's license testing would probably be the way to achieve that goal.  These types of bans are municipal and state cash grabs and a way for elected officials and agencies like the NTSB to get into the press.  Nothing more.

          3. Seat Belt Law saving lives

            That is because people are ignoring the law and more people are texting while driving, and the law is not being enforced enough by the police.The Evanston no-cell-phone-while-driving law  has only worked on people who get ticketed,I still see one in every ten cars with a driver talking on a cell phone while driving .Just like the seat belt law, that has taken time and is working, Click it or ticket law  has saved thousands of lives.Like any new law it always takes time, and the longer you wait the harder people will get off their addiction. 

          4. Darwin Awards

            Clearly anyone who thinks they can drive and text/phone together will qualify for Darwin Awards and wind-up killing themselves. 

            Unfortuantely so many people [K-12 and NU especially] walking are on their cell-phones/texting/IPods [also Darwin winners] that they will be the ones hit by these drivers.   The drivers will be charged but the pedestrians will be injured or killed.  Possibly the drivers will also be injured or killed trying to avoid the pedestrians at the last minute and running into light poles, bridges or other cars.


  4. Not until

    I don't think using a hands-free device is nearly as dangerous to others as messing around with a burning object while driving.  So until they ban cigarette smoking in your car, hands-free devices should be allowed.  At least while using a phone this way both hands are still on the wheel.

  5. Ban ALL cell phone use while driving (even hands free)

    Hopefully this may become Federal law!

    Glad to learn that the NTSB chairwoman Deborah Hershman has proposed this change. "With 3000 people losing their lives every year. No call, no text no update is worth a human life."

    See Tribune article from today:

    http://NTSB recommends ban on all driver cell phone use — even hands-free

    (Wednesday Tribune page 17:  http://www.chicagotribune.com/search/dispatcher.front?Query=NTSB&target=adv_article )

    Just look around you while you are driving or walking… These distracted drivers are not concentrating on the world around them.

    Respectfully submitted, Brian G. Becharas

  6. Cell phone ban

    Talking while driving with a hands free device is no more dangerous than talking to a passenger sitting next to you..

  7. NTSB

    The NTSB can only make recommendations. They have no enforcement powers. Thank the Lord that we have a government agency that can not tax us,  can not fine us, can not take our property, and can not force us to buy something.

    Maybe they should ban drive-thrus at fast food places. It's not just your life that is in danger when you spill hot coffee or an ice cold drink on your lap, it is everybody else that is near your car. 

  8. Keep us all safe, ban everything

    The next complaint will be drivers cutting off drivers to get to the curb to answer their cell phones.  As long as there are cell phones somebody will be distracted somewhere.  While we are at it stop people walking from using cell phones, they walk in front of cars and bump into other people.  Then there are the cyclists who don't pay attention to anything — ban bikes. And on it goes.

  9. From the Insurance Institute

    From the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety:

    Many states already have bans on hand-held cell phone use and on texting while driving. The Insurance Institute has studied crash rates before and after bans were enacted in various states and also compared them to crash rates in nearby states with no such bans.

    While the bans have resulted in actual reductions in phone use, they have not resulted in any reduction in crash rates, according to the Institute.

    The Institute found similar results from bans on text messaging while driving. In fact, in a strange twist, texting bans actually resulted in more crashes in several states, according to an IIHS study.

    The lesson, Insurance Institute spokesman Russ Rader said, may be that cell phones aren't really the problem, drivers are.

    These bans are a waste of time and taxpayer $.  They don't increase safety or reduce accidents.  It's just another avenue for the city/state to dig a little deeper into your pocket.

  10. Existing Evanston cell phone ban is rarely enforced

    Evanston already outlawed hand held cell phone use while driving, in 2010. (See text from city website below, or read the ordinance at http://www.cityofevanston.org/assets/pdf/Cell-Phones-While-Driving-ban.pdf). 

    And yet, every single time I'm out I see multiple drivers talking on cell phones. Many even initiate calls just before leaving  parking spaces and then pull out into traffic. Evanston police are extremely aggressive about garnering revenue by writing parking tickets. Why don't they redirect some of that energy to enforcing the cell phone ban – the tickets would be far more expensive so more revenue for the city, and the impact on driver behavior would be a boon to public safety (unlike parking enforcement). Why did the city bother to enact this ordinance if it isn't willing to bother enforcing it? 

    Text from City of Evanston website:

    Ordinance Banning Hand-held Cell Phones While Driving

    The Evanston City Council recently passed an ordinance making it illegal to speak on a hand-held cell phone while driving. Drivers, as of March 15th, 2010, will now be required to use a hands-free device in a public safety effort to curtail distracted driving. The City ordinance calls for a $50 fine, with an added $200 penalty if the violation occurs at the time of a traffic accident.

    1. Cell phone enforcement

      City officials report 1,713 tickets written for violating the cell phone ban in 2011. That compares to 778 tickets for failing to wear seat belts. City also collected close to $70,000 in fines for the cell phone violations.

      Info here and here.

      — Bill

      1. Even when the police are

        Even when the police are sitting up a side street and you think they are running radar (usually are), they are also looking for cell phone / seat belt violaters. Easier pickings….

        1. Cell Phone / Speeding

          Cops should sit on Oakton when kids are on the playfield for gym or after-school sports.  We would have a windfall from the tickets written for cell phone users speeding (more than 35 MPH) in a school zone while there is ample proof of children present.

          Kudos to the city for helping to slow traffic, but there is a long way to go before we in the southwest corner of our city feel safe.  Bicyclists, and there are many, ride on the sidewalk because they don't feel safe riding the street.  Pedestrians are frightened out of their wits when some of the less conscientious bicyclists speed by them on the sidewalk without warning.  How about bike lanes on this street in our 'greener' Evanston? 

  11. Texting while walking

    Fort Lee, N.J. fines $85 for texting while walkin.  City had three related deaths .

    From the number of NU students texting while crossing Sheridan, and others on streets and sidewalks, itseems like a good idea.

    1. Texting for JAY walking…

      just read an article on this non-issue in NJ.

      The police chief there said tickets are issued when jaywalking, not simply walking and texting.

      Sounds like a solution looking for a problem…

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