Our Opinion: Call-driving

Monday, May 8, 2006

A new study by AAA and the University of North Carolina found that cell phones do not represent the primary distractions for drivers. Many more drivers are distracted by reaching for something in the vehicle and playing with the radio controls. But 30 percent of the drivers in the study said they used cell phones while in motion.

A national survey of cell phone owners by the Pew Research Center, the Associated Press and AOL found that 32 percent of men and 25 percent of women who own cell phones said they sometimes don't drive as safely as they should because they're talking on their cell phones.

Twenty-six states -- not Iowa -- and the District of Columbia have enacted some kind of restrictions on the use of cell phones while driving. Those restrictions range from bans for novice drivers to outright bans for every driver. Some municipalities have enacted their own restrictions.

It's amazing how integral to social intercourse the cell phone quickly has become in the past decade. Jupiter Research estimates the number of cell phones in use in the United States at 195 million. Youths want their cell phones more than their parents wanted their MTV. People who don't have cell phones already are a quickly shrinking minority.

The distractions they cause are mostly irritating, but punching in numbers on a tiny cell phone keyboard while driving is potentially dangerous. The issue will be addressed by government if we don't police ourselves.