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Full cell phone ban in cars a good idea: task force

by Archives September 22, 2009

Quebec’s Road Safety Task Force, an advisory body to the provincial government, may recommend a full ban on cellphone use while driving. A law prohibiting hand-held use of cell phones while driving went into effect in Quebec in April 2008.
Jean-Marie de Koninck, the president of the RTSF, said that any kind of cell phone usage while driving is dangerous. “Studies show that any kind of cell phone use while driving, be it hand-held or hands-free, is just as dangerous as one another,” he said. “It’s not the mechanical distraction.”
Critics of cell phone restrictions frequently argue that talking to someone on a cell phone is similar to talking to a passenger next to you. But de Koninck doesn’t agree. “Its not the same at all. The passenger who’s in the car talking to you sees the same thing as you, sees the same dangers and will act accordingly. There’s all kinds of distraction in cars, but cell phone use was identified by researchers as a major source of distraction that we generally underestimate.”
Marc Choma, a spokesperson for the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, argued that more legislation isn’t the answer. “Every province already has laws against careless driving. There are literally hundreds of things that take drivers’ minds off of driving. At the end of the day, you can’t legislate common sense, and that’s what this is about.”
De Koninck said he doesn’t see a full ban being passed in the short term, because of police opposing a law that would be difficult to enforce, and businesses relying on cell phones. “To pass a law you need some support from the population. We should have done it 20 years ago, when one per cent of the population was using cell phones. But we didn’t know it would expand so fast, and we didn’t know it could be so dangerous.”
Another option, now being considered in British Columbia and several American states is to only apply the ban to younger drivers. When asked if such a law ought to be applied in Quebec, de Koninck was unequivocal “No. If you’re young or old, using a cell phone doesn’t make a difference. It’s the same amount of danger. So it’s irrelevant.”
At Concordia, student reaction was mixed to the possibility of a new law. “I think it’s a bad idea,” said Concordia student Jeanne Salari. “It’s bad for business people. They need to be able to talk to their clients.”
George Kolethras, a computer science student, disagreed. “Its inconvenient, but it makes sense,” he said. “It’s a lot safer. I have a cell phone, but I don’t use it in the car. People can call me back when I’m out of the car and it’s not a big issue.”

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