Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Ban phone drunks

Many people who wouldn't think of driving drunk think nothing of driving and talking on a cell phone.

A new study of 40 drivers at the University of Utah may give them a new name: Phone drunks.

The study reports that using a cell phone while driving is as dangerous as driving drunk.

Researchers tested drivers who talked on cell phones while behind the wheel in a driving simulator. They also tested drivers who were intoxicated with a .08 blood alcohol level—illegal in most states. They found that alcohol and cell phone use impair drivers equally.

The study is one of several on cell phone dangers, and the first to deal with the question of whether use of hands-free cell phones makes the practice safer.

It doesn't.

The researchers recommended that states ban phone use while driving.

In Idaho in 2004, 29 percent of 260 highway deaths involved someone who was intoxicated, according to the group Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.

Whether the carnage wreaked by phone drunks is comparable, it's impossible to say using state highway mortality data because cell phones are just one of many distractions involved in accidents. Yet, the studies show that cell phones are a life-threatening distraction.

There's no reason to wait for blood and bodies to pile up before taking action. Cell phones will be no less convenient if people may use them only in parked cars.

Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Washington, D.C., already ban cell phone use while driving.

Idaho should ban phone drunks, too.

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