Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Va. bill may change driver habits

In-car cell use could be banned

A new bill before the Virginia State Senate would ban handheld cell phone use while driving in the commonwealth.

Virginia State Sen. Patricia Ticer, D-Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax Counties, proposed the bill, according to Fox 5 News.

Drivers are more likely to get into an accident while using their cell phone, Ticer said in a press release.

Some AU students believe this law would be beneficial in reducing accidents in Virginia, while others are opposed to Ticer's proposition. D.C. has already imposed a similar law.

Cell phone usage contributes to 636,000 crashes, 330,000 injuries and 2,600 deaths each year in the United States. A recent study has confirmed that the reaction time of cell phone users slows dramatically in comparison to drivers who do not use their phones, according to an article in Live Science.

"I think driving with a cell phone is dangerous and has the potential to cause accidents," said Michelle Stricklin, a freshman in the School of Communication. "I know people that this has happened to."

Cory Ward, a freshman in the School of Public Affairs, said he believes differently. He finds that talking on the phone helps him stay awake and focused while driving.

"I do talk on my phone while I drive, and I don't find it distracting," he said. "Actually, at times during long travels, I find it helpful to keep my attention and to stay awake."

D.C. banned the use of handheld cell phones while driving in July 2004. Violators of the law are fined $100 for each offense, according to The Washington Post.

Ticer's proposal for the Virginia cell phone law is similar. However, it would not prohibit the use of cell phones while driving, according to Fox 5. Drivers may still talk on their cell phones while using a hands-free device, such as a headset or speakerphone. In the case of an emergency, drivers are excused from the law and may use their phones. Law enforcement and emergency personnel are not included in the ban, according to Fox 5.

Adam Hood, a graduate student in the School of Public Affairs who uses a car in D.C., said he believes the D.C. law may be helpful, but he does not always obey it.

"The cell phone law is definitely a good thing because if people are operating a motor vehicle that could potentially kill someone," he said. "They should probably not be sending their friends text messages or talking on the phone. Just because it's a good idea, doesn't mean I adhere to it strictly."

Aside from D.C., five states have already imposed a cell phone ban, including California, Connecticut, New Jersey, Utah and Washington.

Jordan Van Clief, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences who is from Connecticut, where the law is already imposed, said the law is beneficial, especially in a city like D.C.

"I think it's a good law, but I do talk on the phone when I drive," she said. "It has been proven that people don't drive as well when they multitask, so I guess I should stop. Especially in D.C. with the city and the traffic, you have to concentrate on the roads."

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