Increased Use of Wireless Phones Calls for More Rules, Regulations

Article excerpt

The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association estimates that there are 94 million Americans with wireless telephones.

And use is growing -- an estimated 46,000 people go wireless every day.

This increasing use of wireless phone attracts another element -- calls for more rules and regulations.

At least three states, California, Florida and Massachusetts, have passed laws on wireless telephone use. The Massachusetts law requires drivers to have at least one hand on the steering wheel and Florida's law says that at least one ear must be free.

At the municipal level, rules limiting cell phone use while driving also have been approved in Brooklyn, Ohio; Hilltownship, Pa.; and Athens, Colo. Driving while talking on a phone is illegal in a few countries including England and Israel.

There is support in the public for the laws. A new poll by the Scripps Howard Data Center showed that those carefree Texans are even concerned about cell telephone use while driving.

In the poll, 59 percent of the Texans said they would support state legislation to mute talking on the phone while driving and 56 percent voiced support for bans at the municipal level.

There have been a number of studies that show there is reason for concern. One study, by The New England Journal of Medicine, found that drivers using cell phones are four times more likely to have traffic accidents than those not talking.

The wireless industry, which generally opposes such legislation, is taking some steps to promote safe cell phone use.

Southwestern Bell Wireless has been promoting hands-free devices to promote wireless safety. Use of wireless devices such as ear pieces has been doubling each year.

"The features offered on new digital phones -- such as auto- answer and speed dialing -- combined with the portable ear pieces will enable consumers to use their phones virtually hands-free," said Jan Collier, director of market operations for Southwestern Bell Wireless.

The company provides each new customer with a safety brochure called "A Guide to Safe and Responsible Wireless Phone Use."

And the industry is quick to point out advantages of cell phones.

A survey sponsored by Southwestern Bell Wireless found that American drivers report wireless phones are playing a profound role in roadside safety.

The survey spotlights the emergence of wireless communications as a component of roadside safety, offering immediate access to help in travel emergencies and significantly surpassing other traditional vehicle safety devices such as flashlights, jumper cables and first- aid kits in importance on the road.

Conducted among 500 adults who currently have a wireless phone, the national study showed that 86 percent of those surveyed believe having a wireless phone makes them feel more safe and secure on the road.

The report also shows wireless phones at the top of the list of important safety tools that drivers want to have along in their car or truck when they hit the road. …