Lawrence, Kansas Says To Hell With Any Mobile Phone Use By Drivers

from the none-of-that-now dept

Following a bunch of studies that have suggested a hands-free kit impacts driving just as much as holding a phone to your ear, it looks like Lawrence, Kansas may be the first city to seriously look at banning all driving-while-yakking, whether hands-free or not. Of course, as we’ve discussed previously, most people seem to ignore such bans anyway, while there are plenty of other driving distractions out there as well. This isn’t to say that people should chat on their phones while driving — but just that we already have laws against reckless driving. Instead of trying to ban every possible distraction, why not focus on simply going after the bad drivers?

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Comments on “Lawrence, Kansas Says To Hell With Any Mobile Phone Use By Drivers”

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claire rand says:


going after ‘bad drivers’ leaves defining the word ‘bad’ which can lead to long drawn out cases.

banning doing ‘x’ simply requires you to prove ‘x’ was being done. naturally how the hell to you determine if somes using a hands free kit or muttering to themselves?

the whole idea is daft. yes we *should* simply nail bad drivers, but that requires more coppers and is harder to do with cameras (ala speeding/red lights) or maybe something at the telcos end (e.g. using a phone while moving over ‘x’mph leads to a fine, unless you can ‘prove’ someoen else was driving).

all these laws tend to be wide in scope and look like they are aimed at bringing in a bit of cash while ‘being seen to be doing something’ etc.

HotGarbage (profile) says:

Ban Big Macs

It has been proven through several studies and was brought to my attention by a state patrolman that there are actually relatively few crashes caused by inattentiveness due to cell use. Rather, the most common distraction-related crashes are caused by eating while driving. I have, however seen both simultaneously. Someone driving with their phone tucked between their ear and shoulder, driving with their knees and eating a burger. I say it is darwinism at it’s finest. If only they didn’t take out the family of four next to them at the same time.

Malks says:


In Brazil, we have several laws against the use of mobile phones while driving. But what is it for??? Talking in the phone is not more dangerous than looking some big butts or reading some magazines (just kidding). But, what would be the worst: somebody answering the phone while driving or somebody afflicted with the phone ringing looking for some place (many times unavailable) to park?

Jim says:

Cell Phone Ban

It amazes me how different areas try to ban all the wrong things. For over twenty years I ran with phone, scanner, two police radios, and played tapes or the radio at the same time. Its not the devices it is the drivers that cause accidents and seems today many drivers can not drive without any distractions. I think we are reaping the effects of no drivers education in our schools as a requirement. They did not teach one everything but they sure got people to thinking.

Many people today can not multitask at anything, primarily because they have had everything done for them all thier life.

Just my opinion you understand, but I think a drivers course should be required to obtain a drivers license after the age of 18.

Marshall says:

I consider myself to be a good driver, but I’ve encountered the sitution several times when talking on my cell that I forget where I’m driving and miss a turn or something. The difference between talking with somoene in the car and talking with somone on the phone is that the person in the car is seeing the same conditions you are, in real time, so that you don’t feel the need to keep the conversation going with timely responses. On a cell, you dedicate your attention to the call, making sure that you’re responding back to the caller, because if you don’t, you’ll get “are you there,” or “can you hear me?”

I will continue to use my cell phone in my car, but I’m not crazy enough to try and argue that it would not be safer if I didn’t.

Bob says:

Cell Phone Ban

I hate to disagree, but just this morning I saw a good reason for banning cell phone use while driving. A man was trying to drive, talk on his cell phone, which he was holding in 1 hand, and shift his transmission all at the same time. This while going around a corner. It left no hands for the wheel. He was all over the road. All he needed to make it perfect was to try to smoke at the same time. Ban them.

jason says:

Re: Cell Phone Ban

There is a difference between a man on a phone with no hands-free then someone with a handsfree. Most of the time I use it unless its a quick call. I NEED my phone while driving. Many of times this has been the only way for me to stay AWAKE while driving home or to work 30+ minutes. Driving on the phone saves lives!

GIJoeBob says:

Re: Cell Phone Ban

So, if he did all that but didn’t have a cell phone it would be OK?

You can’t outlaw every single driver distraction out there.




Other drivers

Weather events


People just need to use commons sense. The problem is common sense isn’t common anymore.

Don’t outlaw cell phones. Just ticket people for their violation – unsafe operation of a motor vehicle, etc.

Tony says:

Re: Re: Cell Phone Ban

Enforcing a law against “unsafe” driving again, leads to the ambiguity issue. What is “unsafe?” What is “reckless?” What is “inattentive driving?” How does a police officer measure ATTENTION, let alone measure attention from 200 feet?

Humans can stare directly at something and not attend to it, just as well as one can shift attention to something in the periphery without moving the eyes. Where your eyes are is not necessarily where your attention is, so by what measure am I “inattentive” when driving?

As a citizen, I want laws to be clear; I find it ridiculous that we need people trained in law to understand the legal system that we, the untrained citizen are expected to abide by. As we know, ignorance of the law is no excuse.

John says:

Re: Cell Phone Ban

From now on cars will come in brown, no lights of any sort on the inside. No radio or audio entertainment that can be altered–one radio station that is either on or off. No volume control. No cup holders. Seats won’t recline–straight up only. We will limit to one manufacturer and one model because there will be no difference among them. In addition to the new anti-distraction cars we will have to change the scenery outside cars as well as to avoid distracting drivers. No billboards. Trees and greenery pose a threat as it’s sometimes nice to look out the window to the left or right. Buildings on the side of roads should be one color and contain no lights of course. Oh, and before I forget, the cars will only be one-seaters so we don’t have conversations among passengers.

… the list goes on and on. There is no way to ban a mobile phone in a car. It merely sets the basis for outlawing anything that’s a distraction. Give it time and people adjust to using the cell phone just like they have using the cd player and radio common in cars today.

some weirdo says:


There is a vast difference between looking at a billboad, a house, scenerey, other drivers, etc. for about 0.7 seconds and talking on your cell for about 10 minutes. Also, when you are looking (glancing) at something outside, you are not as invoved with what you are looking at, while talking on the phone will demand your attention.

Practical tests have proven over and over again (like driving on a simple closed circuit without a cell and then driving on the same while simply counting from 0 to 50 – a task that does not even require you to think while talking) that cell phone use in the car is detremental to your driving behavior.

Now, when it comes to the radio and changing CD’s or tapes or the chanel, that is indeed just as dangerous, if not more dangerous than talking on your cell. They should outlaw that as well.

Austria (Europe) has a law that your cell phone cannot be powered on if while you are operating a vehicle. Do they patrol for it? Yes, sting operations just like for breahtalizer tests, etc. Did it reduce the accident rate? Yes, by about 27%.

Most posts on the board today do agree on one thing: lack of common sense. And that is in the end where it all comes down to. That IS the source of the problem… but how can you legislate “thou shalt have common sense whilest thou driveth your car”?

So maybe if we all start driving a little more safely, with or without cell phones, and if we all start using a little more common sense behind the wheel, these laws would not be necessary.

Oh, and Jim (post #5) is right… legal driving age should be upped to at least 18. Kids of 16 these days are barely responsible enough to ride a bike… I cringe when I seen those kids crawl behind the wheel of mommy and daddy’s big a$$ SUV.

haywood says:

Generation Gap

People old enough to remember driving before cell phones were invented tend to believe that; the other mentioned distractions (eating, talking to passengers, tuning the radio, correcting the kids, etc.) existed, but never impacted traffic like cell phone use does. You can argue all day long that these other activities are in fact distracting, and in fact they are, but none so much or so common as yakking on a cell.

Anonymous Coward says:

Mythbusters tried to bust the myth that talking on a cell phone will driving is more dangerous that drunk driving. They failed to bust the myth. Both drivers did whose on the test while talking on a cell phone than they did while drunk. So it’s not a myth that talking on a cell phone while driving is dangerous.

Should drunk driving be illegal? It seems to be safer that talking on a cell phone while driving.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Drunk Driving is the most commited crime in the USA.

I bet cell phone use is commited more often but we don’t like addicits in this country and this country makes a fortune on dui’s Think about it you have to pay for classes ,you pay a large fine . The insurance ccompanies raise there rates and the lawyers well look in any phone book most of the lawyers are in the phone book for dui’s.Then on top of that you can lose your job plus jail time that all tax payers pay for so now what. There is devices to end drunk driving that you may not know about but why end it what would happen to MADD if there was no drunk driving. There is that few that out there that have wrecked going out after work for 2 beers. Now what to do. Nothing, like I said before we in this country hate addicts that’s why our jails are overcrowed.

Tony says:

Re: Re:

Headset user – the research has come back and is clear that using a headset is no less distracting or attention demanding than a hands free device.

Tuning the radio nor having a conversation with a passenger in the seat next to you did not impair drivers to the extent that talking a cell-phone does. A passenger can alter their conversation and has MANY clues (driver experession, driver response, visual and auditory clues from the environement) to do this; a cell phone user does not. In some circumstances a passenger provides another set of eyes, ears and a brain to warn the driver of something potentially hazardous.

As counterintuitive as it might seem; the evidence supports the difference. If you want to ignore emprical evidence then go back to living on a flat planet in a geocentric universe.

Andrew says:

Cell Driving vs. Drunk Driving

I always hate the comparisons between cell driving and drunk driving. Yes, both are more dangerous than driving without intoxicants or a cell phone. The differences are huge, though: You can stop talking on the phone if conditions require it. You can’t stop being drunk on a moment’s notice. Intoxication also impairs your judgment as well as your reflexes/attention. That makes a HUGE difference in the risks of driving.

Tony says:

Re: Cell Driving vs. Drunk Driving

The problem Andrew is that people aren’t allocating the attention to KNOW that the conditions require them to stop talking. What are those conditions that require you to pay attention? Don’t ALL driving situations require you to pay attention to what is going on around you? How do you know when a car or animal will cross your path or something is in the road? There is NO time where you should be talking on the phone then, because ALL conditions require your attention.

The comparison to drunk driving is appropriate because of its salience to people; it is used appropriately as analogy. People don’t really get the nuances of what attention really is; many people know what it feels like to be drunk, so they can readily compare the two. It’s about explanation; don’t hate analogy, because it facilitates understanding.

Wizard Prang (user link) says:

We don't need more laws!

The problem is not cellphones, radios, CDs, coffee, hamburgers, newspapers, hairbrushes or lipstick. The problem is people driving while not paying attention.

I don’t have a problem with cellphones so much as with people (mostly women) talking on the phone with a big silly smile on their face. That is dangerous, because it means that their emotions are connected to the phone and their head is not in the game.

We already have laws for that – Careless Driving (US) or Driving without Due Care and Attention (UK).

People need to realize that piloting tons of metal, rubber, plastic, hair, teeth and eyeballs is a serious business.

Let’s concentrate on safe driving, rather than worrying about the source.

Caryn says:

The rest of the world bans cell phones + driving

If you put a 20-year-old driver behind the wheel with a cell phone, their reaction times are the same as a 70-year-old driver who is not using a cell phone,” said University of Utah psychology professor David Strayer. “It’s like instantly aging a large number of drivers.”

Finally, empirical proof you can blame chatty 20-somethings for stop-and-go traffic on the way to work.

A new study confirms that the reaction time of cell phone users slows dramatically, increasing the risk of accidents and tying up traffic in general, and when young adults use cell phones while driving, they’re as bad as sleepy septuagenarians.

“If you put a 20-year-old driver behind the wheel with a cell phone, their reaction times are the same as a 70-year-old driver who is not using a cell phone,” said University of Utah psychology professor David Strayer. “It’s like instantly aging a large number of drivers.”

The study was announced today and is detailed in winter issue of the quarterly journal Human Factors.

Traffic jams and death

Cell phone distraction causes 2,600 deaths and 330,000 injuries in the United States every year, according to the journal’s publisher, the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.

The reason is now obvious:
Behind the Statistics

Are Cell Phones Really So Dangerous?

Drivers talking on cell phones were 18 percent slower to react to brake lights, the new study found. In a minor bright note, they also kept a 12 percent greater following distance. But they also took 17 percent longer to regain the speed they lost when they braked. That frustrates everyone.

“Once drivers on cell phones hit the brakes, it takes them longer to get back into the normal flow of traffic,” Strayer said. “The net result is they are impeding the overall flow of traffic.”

Strayer and his colleagues have been down this road before. In 2001, they found that even hands-free cell phone use distracted drivers. In 2003 they revealed a reason: Drivers look but don’t see, because they’re distracted by the conversation. The scientists also found previously that chatty motorists are less adept than drunken drivers with blood alcohol levels exceeding 0.08.

Cell phone distraction causes 2,600 deaths and 330,000 injuries in the United States every year, according to the journal’s publisher, the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.

The US is being negligent by not banning cell phone use with drivers. This country is obviously lagging behind the rest of the world. Cell phone use while driving in banned in a majority of countries, globally

Australia Yes Banned in all states – fines vary though.
Austria Yes Fines vary – up to US$22 per incident
Belgium Yes Phones can be used without a hands-free unit when the car is stationary – but not while in traffic (such as at traffic lights)
Brazil Yes Ban imposed Jan. 2001
Canada Variable Banned in Newfoundland (Dec2002) fines up to US$180
Chile Yes
Czech Republic Yes
Denmark Yes Ban imposed July 1998 – US$60 fine for infringements
Egypt Yes Fines of about US$100 per offence.
Germany Yes Ban imposed Feb. 2001 – usage allowed without a hands-free unit only when the engine is switched off.
Greece Yes
Hong Kong Yes
Hungary Yes Not often implemented by the police
India – New Delhi Yes Ban extended to ban all use of cell phones when driving, including use with a hands-free unit – July 2001
Ireland Yes Banned, with a US$380 and/or up to 3 months imprisonment on a third offence. Handsfree kits allowed, although that is subject to review.
Isle of Man Yes Banned since July 2000
Israel Yes
Italy Yes Fines of up to US$124 per infraction
Japan Yes Ban imposed Nov. 1999
Jersey Yes Ban imposed Feb. 1998
Jordan Yes Ban imposed Oct. 2001 Kenya Yes Ban imposed late 2001
Malaysia Yes
Netherlands Yes
Norway Yes Fines of over $600 per infraction
Philippines Yes
Poland Yes Fines can be as high as US$1,000
Portugal Yes
Romania Yes
Russia Yes Ban imposed by Prime Minister – March 2001
Singapore Yes
Slovak Republic Yes
Slovenia Yes South Africa Yes
South Korea Yes Ban imposed July 2001 – US$47 fine + 15 points on the license. Spain Yes
Sweden Yes
Switzerland Yes
Taiwan Yes If the driver is using a reflective screen on the car, local privacy laws forbid stopping the car for violating the ban.
Thailand Yes Bill proposed in May 2000
Turkey Yes
Turkmenistan Yes Signed into law with effect from May 1st 2003, by President Saparmyrat Turkmenbasy
UK Yes No formal ban – but is illegal to drive without “due care and attention” which can be used to bar driving with a cell phone. Ban proposed to come into effect from December 2003
Zimbabwe Yes Ban imposed in Sept 2001, announced via official news agency only though, so not confirmed

Myself says:

No, people are just idiots.

I talk on the phone, or use the CB radio, late at night to keep from falling asleep. Keeping up a conversation does require a certain amount of attention, and that’s what makes it so much more effective than chemical stimulants if you need to avoid dozing off.

I wear a headset for the phone, so it’s totally hands-free. The CB has me fumbling with a push-to-talk mic every few seconds. Which one’s more distracting? And which one is used by more of America’s professional drivers, who spend their working hours on the road, and maintain impeccable safety records while doing it?

The problem here is not the technology, it’s the drivers who don’t take driving seriously. When I’m talking on the phone, I let the other party (or parties) know that I’m driving so my attention is split. If I just go silent, or say “hang on”, they understand.

If a driver doesn’t appreciate the gravity of the situation enough to explain it to their conversational partner, THAT, then, is the problem. But cops and truckers have no problem with their radios, because the people they’re talking to also understand. Simple.

Now, if you want to have some fun, sue a Lawrence, KS cop for driving distracted in violation of the statute.

Tony says:

Re: No, people are just idiots.

If the Lawrence cop is off-duty then the cop will get a ticket. Are you going to start “sueing” or ticketing cops rushing to the scene of a crime with sirens and lights going, for speeding, improper lane change, and running a red light?

I don’t believe the cops should be using cell phones while driving, however, we don’t ticket police for certain “violations” (see above example) in the course of doing their duty.

I, for one says:


Glad to hear it. People who talk on cellphones when driving are a danger to themselves and others. I know traffic troopers drive alone in the states, but here in the UK cops are generally paired and only the passenger can operate the radio.

Two other observations:

1) It’s mostly women who are guilty of this. By a big margin. Whenever I see someone driving and holding a cellphone it’s invariably a woman.

2) Satnav systems are just as dangerous if not more so. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen some ass weaving about the road while fiddling with the stupid toy on their dashboard.

Chuck says:


People are always fighting for more rights in some aspect of our governing system.. ‘more freedom to do this and that!’… then some biker in full hockey gear pops off ‘ban this ban that’… who the hell wants that? Stop being such a pussy and live in that 1 life you get and find a way to drive and talk on your phone all damn day. kids do text messages with sidekicks while driving. If you wreck, boo hoo, It’s up to you as the driver to decide if that was a lesson well learned or not.

Ginger says:

One thing that may not be immediately apparent is that Lawrence, KS is a college town. Smallish (although growing). Concentrated downtown area with a pedestrian-oriented main street. Somewhat hilly (yes, eastern Kansas has hills).

Lots of pedestrians. Lots of cyclists. And lots, lots, lots of the 18-23 year old set from August to May.

Part of this attempt to legislate is likely the direct result of an abundance of younger, inexperienced drivers acting like morons. May even be a “town vs. gown” issue. My guess, having lived there for various stints totaling approx 13 years, is that city authorities are concerned about protecting pedestrians, cyclists, and the high quality of life that one can experience in Lawrence without ever having to get into your car at all, much less gab on your cell while driving (dear god, the average in-town trip only takes 5-7 minutes, why the heck couldn’t ya just finish talking before you turn the ignition key or wait till you get out of the vehicle!)

There may even be a class substrata to this issue as most of the younger kids with cars are the rich spawn of the nearby Kansas City suburbs, who show up in Lawrence equipped with high-end cars and SUVS, the latest gadgetry, plenty of free time (because they don’t have to work their way through college), access to all the best fraternity/sorority keggers, and a highly developed sense of entitlement. They come from a car-oriented culture of the ‘burbs to a not-as-car-oriented culture and attempt to impose their inconsiderate behavior on the locals and their less privileged classmates.

If it’s a focused law, applying only to the municipality, and it gives the authorities the leverage they need to stop a bunch of car-crazed nattering brats from overrunning the town and whipping oblivious down Massachusetts street, endangering pedestrians, babies in strollers, or actual intelligent people who are in college to better themselves, hmm, maybe not all bad. Plus, you never know, the dude you hit when you’re driving while blabbing might be your weed dealer– now THERE’S a tragedy!

Rich says:

Taxis, Limos, Busses & Police

I drive a taxi. Can you imagine if every driver had to pull over to answer a cell/radio call? This includes school busses. If we outlaw phones, we must outlaw radios.

What about police? Are they exempt or does every driver need a partner to answer radio calls? Now we double the work-force for police … I could go on, but I’ll spare you all.

Moneyguy says:

Just pass a law, it always fixes the problem

I’ve lived in Lawrence and I wouldn’t be surprised if one reason for the ban is to generate income.

One thing I learned while earning my Motorcycle license – a distraction is a distraction.

Eating, talking to other people in the car, thinking about your job, talking on the cell phone, staring at a good looking woman (or man if that’s your preference), an antique car catches your eye – they’re all distractions. Anything that diverts your attention from the road is a distraction and they all have the possibility of dire consequences.

Are they going to legislate against all these other distractions? Soon there will be a law to remove all the cup holders in your car. Since some cars themselves can be a distraction, we might as well make it a law that all cars should look the same and have the same color. Black worked for Henry Ford and his Model T, I’m sure it would work for us. But maybe having all cars look the same would lead to boredom which would be a distraction, too. I’m sure there is empirical evidence from a study about that out there somewhere as well.

Where exactly do you stop? Let’s face it. Cell phones are a high profile target and there are huge numbers of inconsiderate (and distracted) cell phone users out there. Everytime you’re in a movie theatre and hear a phone ring it makes you think, There ought to be a law…

Actually passing the law and believing it will solve the problem is another story.

Tony says:

Re: Just pass a law, it always fixes the problem

Moneyguy, the flaw in your argument and the hundreds of others that have made it are that cell phone conversations involve sustained attention to comprehend the message being delivered. Looking at an attractive person, pushing buttons on your stereo do not involve sustained attention.

As for the conversation in the car, that has already been addressed by myself and others.

THe slippery slope argument “where do you stop” is a tired old argument.

Moneyguy says:

Re: Re: Just pass a law, it always fixes the probl


Actually you missed the point. Distraction – any distraction – can have dire consequences. You push a button on your stereo just when a kids ball bounces in front of you and (hopefully) you just missed a kid with your car. Sustained distraction or momentary – it really doesn’t matter.

I agree that sustained distractions have more of a chance of dire consequences, but does that really matter when someone just caused an accident?

I would also argue that it does not takes sustained concentration to comprehend most messages. Certainly some do require sustained concentration. What about the fact that most information gathered when communicating is through non-verbal communication channels? Wouldn’t that mean that a person having a conversation in a car is more of a distraction? I’m being facetious, but then again so is this idea that passing a law of this type will actually work when there is more evidence that eating while driving causes more accidents than cell phones.

As for the slippery slope argument – have you seen some of the asinine laws passed in lieu of common sense? Our system of laws is based on the concept of precedent and one foolish step can lead to another foolish step. Tired or not, it’s a legitimate concern.

andy says:

Sure, ban cell phones in cars....

but first, let’s try making a few other things illegal:

1 – dog / cat on lap while driving

2 – driving while seatback is reclined

3 – ticketing the driver of any vehicle with a stereo playing so loud you can hear or feel it when your cars windows are rolled up

4 – swerving to go over speed bumps at a angle (or dips for that matter)

5 – those really annoying propellors that fit in trailer hitches – nothing like being blinded by a spinning mirror while driving

6 – anyone who pulls to the left and stops before making a right hand turn

7 – staying in the left hand lane on freeways when cars are consistently passing you on the right

8 – driving below the speed limit in car pool lanes

9 – slamming on your brakes because you see a cop that has already pulled someone over on the other side of the road

10 – coming to a dead stop to creep over speed bumps in your SUV

I could keep going here – the list of things that people do that is stupid while they are driving is way longer than this, but it’s a start.

And one other thing – on the list of top causes of accidents, using a cell phone is way down the list (below 10th place). Number one is external distractions. So let’s make car windows illegal too.

reinkefj (user link) says:

government cell phone idiocy

Forget the government trying to force people not to use cell phones when driving. (Don’t get me started on government.) How about a simple solution? Insurance companies shouldn’t have to cover the cost of your accident if it’s found you’re on the phone at the time of the accident, or were on just prior, to. Simple and elegant? I know that if I got that letter from my insurance company it would make an impression on me. Think of it: insurance company lawyers would be sure to enforce that provision. Thye’d be on it far better than any “state revenue collection” agent (aka cop) — we know that it’s all about revenue from radar traps rather than safety. I bet that “simple change” would change behavior. IMHO

Lundeen says:


I think we focus to much on Cell Phones. I have seen people glance away for only 1 second, and have been in some sort of an accident. What about the drivers that read while driving. At least a cell phone user has their eyes on the road and not down in paper work. I’ve seen people singing and boping around listening to music in their cars and not paying any attention to their surroundings. Recently a friend tried to miss a deer. Well he missed the deer but totalled his car. And God knows how many times his car flipped over and over. Very lucky. I know people that can’t talk, chew gum , etc. We need to move on and focus on bigger things of more importance. Any time you drive no matter what is going on there is always some type of distraction. We can only hope that we are wearing seat belts and survive that crash when and if it does happen.

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