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This is the first draft of my position paper on this topic. The paper will be extensive with research findings and survey results to support both the various common positions on the main ideas and my personal opinion. There has been an extensive debate among different governments, scholars and medicine practitioners on the dangers of mobile phones. With the number of mobile phones subscribers increasing at a high rate, we must ask ourselves whether the use of mobile phones should really be promoted. If it should, then with what kind of restrictions should this be done to enhance our safety? We must also ask ourselves whether we have facts on the number of accidents associated with the use of mobile phones while operating a moving vehicle. Second issue that must be addressed is whether using cell phones can really subject us to health complications. From my survey results, there should never be an assumption that the public is aware of such issues. It will also be clear that a step towards public education will be necessary other than just relying on various paper legislations as in the case in New York.
This paper will majorly target the policy makers especially those under whose department the motor vehicle operators and the mobile phone use lies. The paper shall extend its scope to include all groups of people using mobile phones as it seeks to address the major concerns. It will assist my audience to answer questions related to cell phone use by providing concrete supportive statistical data. We will ask ourselves and seek answers as to whether and why cell phones are bad for our health. I will also help my audience to know the persisting threats of cell phone use on our roads while also addressing other issues like drunk driving. This will enable them to make appropriate adjustments in our policies.
Mobile Phones and accidents
Texting while driving has become a big issue in many states and is said to be responsible for a greater percentage of the number of deaths resulting from road accidents. Some Jurisdictions have made the use of cell phones while driving illegal. Some others have also enacted laws to ban handled mobile phones use, but allow use of hands free device cases. In some cases the restrictions are only directed to minors or those who are newly qualified license holders. This paper will stress on the New York State legislation on the ban of using cell phones as well as texting while driving. However, the paper will also examine the state of the debate in a few other states.
Case Study New York legislation law on the use of mobile phones
New York was the first state to pass cell phone legislation in 2011. The law made it a traffic infraction for a motorist operator to drive a motor vehicle while using hand-held cell phones. Some motorists have adapted to this legislation by using hands free connections such as blue tooth devices. Others continued to violate it especially because the only potential penalty was a fine. The motorists convicted of using a hand held cell phone would be liable to pay a fine of up to $100.00. The violation carried no points on the motorist’s license. This has changed presently with the recent legislation having amended the law to assess two points of the motorists driving record for each cell phone conviction.
For example, the SB 7460 prohibits the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. The AB 2302 prohibits the use of cell phones while driving on a public highway but allows for a handset free device in certain circumstances. AB 3016 requires police officers to indicate on motor vehicle reports whether cell phones use played a part in the accidents. AB 3684 prohibits the use of cell phones while driving unless the driver is in fear of his or her life of fears that a criminal act may be perpetrated against them AB 4361 states that it is against the law to drive while using a handheld cell phone and sets out penalties while exempting hands-free devices.
However, even with such legislation, my survey revealed very low public compliance to these regulations raising questions of its effectiveness. My study was to establish the public knowledge and position on the cell phone use among the motor vehicle operators. In my methodology, short questions were designed to get the first hand response of a sample of 10 motor vehicle operators. The questions were directed to seek the operator’s views on mobile use versus accidents and their knowledge of health dangers associated with cell phones. The study revealed that a large percentage of the New York citizens own and use cell phones. Though they are conscious of the legislation, a good percentage had still not internalized the dangers associated with cell phone texting while driving and were not a ware of the related health complications.
What do these findings indicate to us as the policy makers? It is clear that much needs to be done in educating and persuading the public on the dangers of using the cell phones while driving. The statistics by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has shown that the cell phone use rate of in New York declined significantly from 2.3% before the law to 1.1% after the law. Even though this is commendable as the use rates in Connecticut an adjacent state without law did not change, I still think that there is room for improvement of our policies. To ensure high compliance to this law, there is need for the vehicle operators to internalize and personalize the need to take self precaution. For example to what extent have you involved the media in this campaign? You may not need to answer me because my survey revealed a failure in this aspect.
What is then the way forward? The reports have pointed out on the need to develop and distribute education materials on the hazards of driving while distracted by cell phones, and the teaching of cellular cell phone etiquette. This will encourage the drivers to instead concentrate while driving by avoiding the use of phones or any other destructing influences. The use of other devices like computers, navigation systems should also be equally addressed. Further more, any education program targeting the public should seek to incorporate both the cell phone industries and the media. However, there will be need to first harmonize the massages from different cell industries. There has been confusion in massages with Nokia advising its cell phone owners never to talk on their cell phones while driving, while AT&T spokes person said that they are not suggesting for people never to make phone calls but the need of using common sense while in a car.
What am I suggesting? More effective campaigns should be carried out with simple and consistent massages that make reasonable request on motorists. The messages on cell phones use have not been clear on the safeness of non emergency phone and whether hands free models are naturally safer than hand-held units. The policy should also avoid separating between hand-held’s and hands-free phones. Research has shown that in terms of driver destruction, there is little difference between the two. This law as it is may end up endangering our highway safety more than it enhances it. These issues must therefore be resolved to make this legislation effective.
This should equally happen in other nations. Like in California where only teens with learners’ permits can’t talk on cell phones, send text messages, or use other interactive electronic devices while driving. The state equally allows all drivers to use hands free devices while driving. The Columbia case is more less the same to that of the District of Columbia and Colorado. These states’ laws ties all drivers to the use of hands free device while operating a car while prohibiting the use of cell phones among the drivers with the learners permit.
Finally, can you agree that driving while texting is more dangerous than drunk driving? I know this may be hard to believe but research has pointed out that this is the truth. A research carried out in 2008 to compare the effects of texting, alcohol and cannabis on driving showed that cell phones were more destructing than alcohol or cannabis while driving. The results showed that the reaction mechanism when texting while driving is 45.9% slower than an undistracted driver compared to only 12.4 % when driving at the legal alcohol limit of .08. The result also showed that driving while texting affects one’s ability to maintain lane positioning. Texting drivers display an increase of around 35% in lane swirls compared with those under the influence of alcohol 14%.
Cell phones and Health
This is another area that needs to be addressed. Most people have associated mobile phones use to cancer especially the brain tumor. However, some scientists have argued that whereas high level of RF can produce health effects by heating tissues, exposure to low level RF like the microwaves produced by the cell phones dose not produce any known adverse heating effects. There is also an agreement that while RF energy doesn’t ionize particles, large amounts can increase the body temperatures and cause tissue damage. This means that the eyes and the testes may be very vulnerable because they have relatively little blood flow in them that can carry away excess heat. The claims linking the cell phone use to brain cancer and deformation have not been confirmed scientifically.
Does it therefore mean that the users of mobile phones are totally safe health wise? No! There are other ways in which mobile phones may cause a threat to one’s health. First is the new finding by researchers that links the doctors’ phones to the health of their patients. A research by Ondekuz Mayis University in Turkey found out that most of the doctors’ phones are contaminated with some kinds of disease causing bacteria. The second argument is that the conversations we have through the phone might be of negative effect to the brain . A research by Carnegie Mellon University found out that just listening to a conversation reduces the amount of brain activity devoted to driving by 37%. This means that drivers talking while driving have a high chance of involving themselves in an accident.
Thirdly, those with allergies to metals such as nickel may experience contact dermatitis by having a continuous contact to cell phone. Finally, loud music associated with cell phones is responsible for a number of hearing damages experienced today. According to the statistics by the U.S Center for Disease Control, 17% of adults between age 20-69 have suffered permanent damage to their hearing from excessive exposure to noise with phone conversation being the main contributor. Studies have also shown that most people suffer from complications related to lack of enough sleep because of having to spend along time calling.
Even though cell phones may have significant benefits to the drivers enabling them to report emergencies and congestion hotspots to traffic managers, talking or texting while driving is dangerous. The policies should therefore be adjusted to ensure the effectiveness of the relevant legislation. The research has also pointed out the need for public education and more campaigns while involving all the stakeholders.