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
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
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
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. …