Glenwood has a hang-up with cell phones, may ban use while driving
Glenwood Springs could be the next in a growing number of cities across the U.S. and around the world to ban the use of cell phones while driving. At Thursday’s regular meeting of the Glenwood Springs City Council, comments by a citizen about Grand Avenue traffic offenses turned into a full-on diatribe against motorists who talk on their cell phones while driving. “We could actually do a city ordinance banning cell phones while driving,” Councilman Rick Davis suggested. After further conversation about what council members see as a dangerous distraction, council asked assistant city attorney Karl Hanlon to bring back some sample ordinances so they can decide how to tackle the issue. “We can enforce it, but know that council is going to … bear the brunt of it,” city manager Mike Copp said of a possible ban. Councilman Dave Merritt offered some ideas on whether to outlaw driving and dialing. “If we’re going to look at banning one type of distraction, we should maybe consider banning other types of distractions,” he said, for example, eating of hamburgers or sipping coffee.Merritt also pointed out that motorists are encouraged to call *DUI to report drunken drivers and *CSP to report road rage. He asked if it would be illegal to report these activities from a cell phone while driving in Glenwood Springs, if such an ordinance was in place.”It is a difficult issue to grasp,” Hanlon said. Councilmen Larry Emery and Don Gillespie suggested exempting drivers who have hands-free car phones.
According to a 2000 Harvard School of Public Health study, restricting cell phones while driving may be premature because the benefits might outweigh the risks. The study also questions whether hands-free phones are safer than handheld phones. “A driver’s average risk of being killed while using a cell phone is 6.4 in a million per year. That is 80 percent less than the average risk of fatality to a driver with a blood alcohol level of 0.10 percent,” the study said. The study also lists some benefits of using a cell phone while driving. These benefits include: expanded productive time; peace of mind; reducing the number and duration of trips; decreased emergency response time for drivers who report accidents; and a better chance of catching drunken drivers and other violators.Although the study was undertaken by the Harvard School of Public Health, it was funded by AT&T Wireless.A 1997 study in the New England Journal of Medicine illustrated the opposite opinion on whether people should talk on cell phones while driving. The study says using cell phones while driving increases the risk of an accident four-fold. But the journal’s study also advised, “Decisions about regulation of such telephones, however, need to take into account the benefits of the technology and the role of individual responsibility.”
A proposed Colorado state law introduced in 2002 would have prohibited the use of hand-held cell phones while driving, but it died in committee.The issue, as it turns out, is a global one. New York started enforcing a ban on using cell phones while driving in November 2001. At least 40 countries ban use of cell phones while driving, including Ireland, Spain, Australia, Germany, Poland, Russia, South Korea and Norway, the Cellular News reported. Most just levy fines – up to an equivalent of $1,000 American dollars in Poland – but in South Korea drivers can actually lose points on their license.It also reports that a national law barring drivers from chatting on the phones is “being debated” in the United States. If passed, the federal law could take over for all such local- and state-imposed laws.
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Grace Wesseling is an animal lover, a cheerleader of seven years and another soon-to-be graduate of Bridges High School, class of 2021.