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Morning Poll: Cell Phone Ban

by ARLnow.com December 15, 2011 at 9:30 am 3,008 113 Comments

On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board called for a nationwide ban on the use of all cell phones and text messaging devices while driving. The proposed ban would even apply to hands-free devices, like talking on a cell phone via a Bluetooth headset.

Using a hand-held cell phone while driving is perfectly legal in Virginia. That’s in contrast with D.C., which requires that drivers use a hands-free device. Virginia does ban texting while driving, but it’s considered a secondary offense, meaning that you must be violating another traffic law in order for the police to pull you over and give you a citation.

The only exception to those rules is for school bus drivers, for whom it is a primary offense to use a cell phone, and for drivers younger than 18, for whom all cell phone use is banned.

Would you support a more comprehensive cell phone ban in Virginia?

  • Josh S

    Man, writing poll questions just isn’t ARLNow’s strong suit, is it? Options should generally be structured is a parralel manner, so that the differences between answers focus only on one issue. These choices are all over the place. For example, option two brings in the entirely irrelevant issue of whether or not someone “generally supports the NTSB.” What’s that got to do with how far you think laws should go in restricting cell phone use?
    And furthermore, what does “generally supports the NTSB” even mean? How would one *not* support the NTSB?

    • x

      Settle down Beavis.

    • State_Laws_Only

      Choice that was misssing: Support a VA law that restricts all use of cell phones to include bluetooth use. No need for the flipping NTSB to intrude upon our state’s affairs. Actually no need for the NTSB anyway except to reward cronies.

  • JamesE

    I never answer my phone in my car* but I also drive a manual.

    *I also never answer my phone at home.

  • Southeast Jerome

    This poll question is so biased towards getting people to agree with the Big Brother government.

    First they dictate the types of light bulbs we can use, now cell phones in the car. Next, they will ban gas stoves or radiators.

    I bet there is already some contractor out there foaming at the mouth with his RFP to be used as a consultant to study how to enforce this regulation.

    And you wonder why our deficit is soaring.

    • JamesE

      Big brother wouldn’t need to act if people didn’t drive like idiots.

      • Zoning Victim

        I love the way everybody thinks everybody else drives like an idiot. My mom, still to this day, yells that everybody that drives faster than her is crazy and everybody that drives slower than her is a moron.

      • Burger

        so we should out law car radios?

        • Ed

          If you’re having a chat with your radio, Burger, then yes, yours should be taken away.

          • Car radios can (and are) played so loud that you likely wouldn’t hear an emergency vehicle coming your way. That is a safety hazard.

          • Bluemontsince1961

            Yep, case in point, the characters that play their radio so loud that with both their windows up and the car next to them with the windows up can still feel the bass booming through. Doubt they’d hear an air raid siren at that rate.

          • Burger

            Don’t you ever look down when changing the radio channel or satellite radio or Ipod etc. Same thing but I don’t see anyone outlawing that.

            If someone is driving erratically because they are being distracted enforce the current laws do make new laws that are unenforceable and make the punishment for someone that causes an accident texting, talking on cell phone, putting on make up, shaving, taking a bong hit (saw that the other day) extremely high.

          • Burger

            I made a pun and didn’t even know it.

    • OX4

      I’m probably going to regret asking, but….how does banning cell phone use in automobiles increase the deficit?

      • Southeast Jerome

        Well- its indirect because it will require numerous “studies” and enforcement merchanisms. Anytime there are new govt regs put out, more contractors get hired and paid to implement the various requirements of the regs.

        • CW

          Well they just need to set the fines high enough to recoup the costs then.

        • OX4

          You could also just as easily argue the opposite: that implementing safety laws reduces accidents, thereby reducing the burden on government-funded emergency personnel.

          • Southeast Jerome

            Except based on facts, you cant- because since Obama took office, regulations and government spending have both soared. I’m not picking on Obama specifically, I voted for the dude, but its gettign outrageous how many issues the government wants to involve themselves in.

          • Northeast Shiniquewa

            While we’re talking ‘facts’, Obama’s White House has approved fewer regulations than his predecessor George W. Bush at this same point in their tenures, and the estimated costs of those rules haven’t reached the annual peak set in fiscal 1992 under Bush’s father, according to government data reviewed by Bloomberg News.

            Obama’s White House approved 613 federal rules during the first 33 months of his term, 4.7 percent fewer than the 643 cleared by President George W. Bush’s administration in the same time frame, according to an Office of Management and Budget statistical database reviewed by Bloomberg.

          • OX4

            Jerome, no offense…but your just spouting tired Republican talking points. Those points have been shown false time and time again by information like NE Shini there just posted.

    • Josh S

      Basically, you’ll have to become a hermit to avoid gummint regulation. It’s part of living in a society.

      On the other hand, if you can prove that any of these regulations you rail against were handed down in a capricious, unreasonable manner, you can sue and perhaps get them overturned. Or, if you can prove them to be unconstitutional, you can also get them overturned.

      If not, you’re just tilting against windmills. Willingly. In public.

      Which is sort of annoying for the rest of us. Although I will admit it’s also slightly amusing….sometimes.

    • YTK

      Hey Jerome– i never use a gas stove in my car– at least NOT while I am driving.

    • Northeast Shiniquewa

      The ideological fantasy that government is the problem, and simply getting rid of it is the answer, is a great propaganda slogan for white collar criminals to promote, but it makes little sense in the real world of flawed human beings and a persistent rogue element in society.

      • Southeast Jerome

        Yes- because most adults in our country cannot make decisions for themselves.

        Seriously though, maybe the government should focus their attention on getting the millions of unemployed back to work or figuring out a way to create a more equal society, rather than trying to force their ways into issues like this that really come down to personal responsbility and making good decisions.

        • Josh S

          It’s not about making decisions for themselves. It’s about making decisions that responsibly take into account the consequences of those decisions on the rest of us. You may say to yourself that driving while texting is perfectly fine but when you hit a pedestrian or other car, etc., all of a sudden what was a decision you made for yourself negatively impacts those around you.

          At the point where it appears that too many people are making decisions for themselves that then result in negative consequences for those around them, you have to figure out ways to discourage that behavior. It’s not always the best answer to actually criminalize the behavior, but that is certainly one usually pretty effective option.

          Maybe Southeast Jerome is a fine, upstanding citizen who always considers the consequences of his decisions, but unfortunately, not every person in society is. Too bad.

          • Zoning Victim

            “It’s not always the best answer to actually criminalize the behavior, but that is certainly one usually pretty effective option.”

            Actually, this isn’t really true. People who think a law is stupid, which they presumably would if they’ve already made the decision that it’s okay to text and drive, are going to ignore the law. If you don’t believe that, simply look at the number of people who still talk on their mobile phones in DC without a hands free kit, have tried illegal drugs, drank when they were underage, didn’t wear their seatbelt when it was mandated (which is far more egregious than a no texting law) and still speed.

            For the record, I’m all for a law that bans texting and makes it a primary offense, but I’m also realistic about the fact that people are still going to text and drive.

          • Kirk

            “didn’t wear their seatbelt when it was mandated”

            85% of people wear their seat belts.

          • Zoning Victim

            Now, thanks to educational programs; “didn’t” = past tense. The fact that 15% still don’t actually proves my point.

          • Southeast Jerome

            Texting and driving being against the law I support 100%. It is a totally different thing to totally ban talking on a cell phone, whether hands-free or not.

            In fact, it is already illegal in all 3 area jurisdictions to be texting and driving. This thread (and the poll) are related to the all inclusive “cell phone ban.”

          • Kirk

            “Now, thanks to educational programs; “didn’t” = past tense.”

            Right, now. You have to start somewhere. Thanks to enforcement, too.

            “The fact that 15% still don’t actually proves my point.”

            All it proves is that there will always be people who break any law. Was your point that we should therefore not have laws?

        • Kirk

          “maybe the government should focus their attention on getting the millions of unemployed back to work”

          They are. Haven’t you noticed that the unemployment rate is going down at the same rate it did under Reagan during his first term?

          • Southeast Jerome

            Actually- the unemployment rate went down because people are leaving the workforce. They have been looking for jobs for so long, they gave up and they are no longer counted as “unemployed,”

            Here is a link from a news website:

          • Kirk

            Yes, just as they did during Reagan’s first term. Yet, that was an “economic miracle”, but this is a “recession”. Right, got it.

        • Joe

          There is no way for the government to police distracted driving or other irresponsible behaviors other than to make the behavior illegal.

          Talking on a cell phone while driving has arguably been shown to be as “dangerous” as Drinking and Driving.

          I know that I can drive home safely on arterial roads from Arlington to Falls Church after 5 beers. Why am I punished for all the people who try to drive the wrong way down I-66 after drinking too much?

          It’s the same argument, but for reason people, seem to like their Cell phones enough to put every around them at risk.

      • Zoning Victim

        Of course, getting rid of the government really isn’t a philosophy shared by most advocates of small government. It’s just a straw man that lovers of regulation throw out anytime somebody challenges any regulation and states that the government is too involved in our lives.

        • Juanita de Talmas

          It’s usually invoked when anti-regulators start using terms like “Big Brother”.

  • JimPB

    I have seen numerous driving lapses when drivers were using a cellphone, e.g., zooming through a stop sign, weaving in and out of the lane. Enough is enough.

    Need to take or make a call. Pull over and park, then do the call.

    This morning’s NYTimes also reports that IT devices can cause “Distracted Doctoring”– see paste below.

    With More Devices Comes ‘Distracted Doctoring’
    Some hospitals have begun limiting the use of computers, smartphones and other devices in critical settings.

    • Bluemontsince1961

      “I have seen numerous driving lapses when drivers were using a cellphone, e.g., zooming through a stop sign, weaving in and out of the lane. Enough is enough. Need to take or make a call. Pull over and park, then do the call. ”

      +100, JimPB! I’ve experienced a lot of near misses both as a driver and pedestrian with drivers doing just the things you mentioned.

      • I saw a gentleman clearly with a lapse of judgement this morning while driving on the phone. He opened his window and threw garbage out of it, while driving, while talking. Clearly his phone call distraction made him break another law and pollute. Or, he’s is just a big fat DB who doesn’t give a crap about society. Yeah, that’s probably it.

        • Bluemontsince1961

          I’d bet on the big fat DB. I’ve seen the same thing. I saw some yahoo go right through a red light one time when the left turn arrow turned green in the left turn only lane next to them. It would have been quite a note if someone had T-boned the idjit.

    • Jennifer

      Banning cell phones doesn’t make people become safer/better drivers. I don’t like the idea of across the board laws that stop people from thinking they need to be responsible for their own actions.

      This is not an argument that cell phone use has not been a factor in some accidents. But so are a ton of other things. And when I’m crawling on 95 for 3 hours, I want to be able to make a call.

      Also, there are tons of hands free devices that connect through car radios. Exactly how does NTSB expect to enforce this?

      • Drunk

        I am perfectly capable of driving safely after a fwew cocktails. Damn Gummint nanny state. pass the scotch. Hic.

      • Josh S

        A. It’s not intended to make them better drivers. It’s intended to take away a known distraction that has been demonstrated to contribute to accidents at a rate that makes it significant.
        B. I wouldn’t necesarily argue against including some sort of stipulation about speed of the car. But that may be difficult to enforce, it may place undue burden on the cop who is deciding whether or not a particular law is in effect, and since you can still rear end someone while going 10 miles an hour and looking down at your phone, it may not be a good idea. Also, your statement about wanting to make a call is borderline petulant since you seem to be placing your personal desires at the front of the line of relevant issues. People are capable of sitting in traffic without getting on the phone. Your life wouldn’t be ruined.
        C. You are absolutely right to point out enforcement difficulties. How does a cop know as he drives by and sees you talking that you’re not just singing along to the radio? NTSB leaves that to the states to figure that one out. They don’t make the laws. Or enforce them.

        • Burger

          So, when my wife went into labor on a 2 AM Sunday morning. Her doctor was not there but because of complications in her pregnancy she was going to be there for the delivery. Because of my wife’s labor, the doctor had to drive in and was on the phone with the doctor in the operating room describing issues. So, yes, my life could be ruined.

          • Kirk

            “Because of my wife’s labor, the doctor had to drive in and was on the phone with the doctor in the operating room describing issues.”

            How ever did people manage before cell phones?

            In any event, there would be exceptions for emergencies like the one you describe.

          • Burger


            I don’t know but I’d question if doctor did not have a cell phone if my child would be the smart wonderful child she is or I would being raising her myself. So, I am all for technology and you can go back to arguing against fire since that is just as dangerous as cell phones if not appropriately used.

            You also get into the slippery slope of making the police evaluate behavior which makes them less efficient.

          • Kirk

            You don’t know how people managed before cell phones? How old are you, 14?

            Alcohol is just as dangerous as cell phones if not appropriately used also. Shall we dispense with DUI laws, too?

            Police evaluate behavior all the time. It’s the core of what they do.

          • Burger

            Ok, I’ll tell my wife and kid not to go into labor but wait for the doctor…check. Seems pretty reasonable.

        • Zoning Victim

          You need to separate talking on the phone, which has been proven to be relatively safe, from texting, which is incredibly dangerous. A Virginia university (VT I think) did a study where they actually used video of people driving in everyday situations. It turned out that mobile phone use didn’t cause a significant increase in the likelihood of being involved in an accident because it didn’t take your eyes off of the road like texting does. Of course, the biggest opportunity for a crash when using a mobile phone is when dialing or answering.

          • PikeMan

            That’s not actually true… the distraction isn’t just a visual or physical, it is also cognitive.

            It’s also a myth that hands free devices making talking on the phone safer while driving:


          • Southeast Jerome

            They should probably ban these distractions as well:
            1. eating while driving
            2. stopping children from fighting in the backseat while driving
            3. changing CDs/Ipods while driving
            4. smoking ciggs while driving (sorry steve)
            5. drinking ANY beverage while driving
            6. sneezing while driving (you cant keep your eyes open, I promise you)

            Shall I go on? This is a total waste and can be covered by the already on the books Distracted Driving law. The govt just wants to pass laws to get re-elected and make it seem like they are actually doing something.

    • YTK

      I once saw some idiot driver holding a dog in his lap and texting.

      • JamesE

        that was me, dog was steering while I shifted into 3rd.

        • Bluemontsince1961

          Well……at least you weren’t driving an automatic! -:)

  • novasteve

    If you believe in some nanny state, you believe in the complete control of our lives. So if some people are incompetent, then everyone must be punished. We do this for every other aspect of the nanny state unless it would be politically incorrect to single out a group of protected people. Welcome to having your lives completely controlled except for particular darling issues. Personally you are a fool if you use a cell phone while you drive. But then they would need to ban conversations with passengers, eating, etc… Enjoy having your lives completely controlled. Sheeple here deserve it.

    • Josh S

      Molehill + novasteve = mountain.

    • Drunk

      you tell ’em stevie! Hic

    • CW

      Novasteve I feel like you would gain some perspective from living in some country where, at any minute, you could eat food tainted with industrial chemicals, have a telephone pole fall on your head, or be smitten by a host of other calamities from which the regulations we take for granted protect us.

      • Done and Done

        “from which the regulations we take for granted protect us” Oh – you mean like the leash law?

        • CW

          Yes, unfortunately you are right that some rules which exist for a good reason are not enforced. Mercifully, when it comes to those that protect our basic health and safety, we do pretty well here.

  • Jennifer

    Banning all cell phone use is ridiculous. Are they going to ban conversations with passengers too?

    • brif

      Why is a cell phone ban any more ridiculous than any other driving law?

    • Anne of Tan Gables

      Passengers generally notice when you need to focus on merging or whatever. Studies have shown that it’s not holding the phone that distracts people, it’s the conversation with someone who isn’t in the car.

      • novasteve

        That’s not true. It’s hard to focus on the road when you are fumbling with a phone in your hand, looking at the phone, pressing buttons on the phone, instead of driving. It’s the same risk that reading a magazine while driving poses. However having one hand off the wheel isn’t the reason, because then they would have to ban manual transmissions. It’s taking your eyes off the road that’s the problem.

        • CW

          I agree with you, Steve. If everything is done by voice, no problem. It’s the visual and motor skill distraction that’s the issue. Yes, one can draw a parallel to changing the radio, but I think that the extent and magnitude of the distraction is smaller there as opposed to typing a number or sorting through your contact list.

          • novasteve

            They’ve also on upper end cars moved the radio controls to the steering wheel. If anything they would probably have to ban satellite radio due to the plethora of stations and you can look at the song titles and would be a distraction…S ome even display pictures.

      • jan

        No, that study involved drivers using hands free devices.

    • Kirk

      No, because studies show that having a conversation with a passenger is not nearly as distracting as on a cell phone.

  • othersideoftheriver

    By the time these laws make it through legislatures and to the books, past the grace period and into enforcement, something will have replaced cell phones. Use the laws we already have, please: Failure to maintain control applies here.

    • novasteve

      They already have distracted driver laws to begin with. There’s no law against grilling hamburgs while driving, but it would already be covered by distracted driver laws.

    • brif

      Virginia legislative session starts on the second Wednesday in January. A cell phone ban could very easily be enacted in a year. Pretty sure cell phones will still be widely used.

      • Kirk

        “Pretty sure cell phones will still be widely used.”

        For a while. Then enforcement would kick in. Like with seat belts.

  • Distractions

    How is banning all cell use any different form other distractions? Why not ban the radio…The radio (especially talk radio) would require you to listen to something else. What about conversation with passengers? I am all for safer, but if the point is to keep our hands free for driving, then allow hands free. If it is to prevent any kind of distracted driving from a cell phone than there are other distractions as well. Hands free is fine.

    • Ed

      You really think that talking to someone on a cell phone is just as easy as talking to someone right next to you? I find it is easier to talk in person; I can hear sarcasm better, discern humor better, see hand gestures via peripheral vision, etc. Therefore, talking in person is less distracting, for me anyway. Therefore, no, a phone chat vs. a chat with a passenger is not apples to apples.

      Maybe it’s just me, and the rest of you never, never have misunderstandings with your spouses during cell phone calls.

  • Grognak

    Would police have to stop talking on their phones while driving too?

    • novasteve

      Of course not.

    • Only if it interrupts them using their laptop, and taking pictures of your license plate.

      • Bluemontsince1961

        Heehee! 10 points! Good one!

  • urmom

    Don’t existing laws against distracted driving already cover this? Why do we need a new one?


    • Southeast Jerome

      because the simple minded people of America are incapable of making decisions for themselves

      • Burger

        They said the same thing about prohibition. But, just like the cell phone ban, you very rarely able to enforce social morals via the law and if the law is almost impossible to enforce forget about it. Thus, when people find a law arbitary and caprcious to the point they ignore it, they are more likely to ignore one that is more important.

        • CW

          Enforcement is harder than deterrence.

          Set the penalties high enough, make examples out of a few people, and the law enforces itself. If people start to flout it, make a few more examples.

          • Done and Done

            Or spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for traffic calming measures so you bypass both the enforcement and deterrence issues. Chances are pretty good Arl Co would “opt out” of any cell phone enforcement just like they tried with Secure Communities.

          • Zoning Victim

            Right, after all, look how well it’s worked with drunk driving: http://dontdiedrunk.org/drunk-driving-stats/?gclid=COSvkvfXhK0CFacQNAodb2LaJw

          • Drunk

            yous is alright mister zoney, damned infringement of my civil liberties. doesn’t work should just let us all have a few after all it’s Christmas, time to be merry.

          • CW

            But ZV, you’re proving my point. DUI penalties are infamously light. Anybody with a halfway decent lawyer can get off with almost nothing.

          • Burger

            You mean like during the prohibition when the government decided to poison liquor to kill those that would imbibe


            Yes, sounds like a great idea that someone talking on their cell phone should be extremely punished. Now, someone that causes an accident another story.

          • CW

            Fine, so I am in favor of trying to prevent injury and loss of life, and you are an advocate of slapping people on the wrist after the blood has been mopped up. Fundamental difference of opinion. Agree to disagree.

  • Clarendon

    I’d rather just increase the penalty for an at-fault accident. Take away people’s license, no exceptions.

    • Old Saying

      “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

  • outoftowner

    Interestingly enough, while there is no difference between a hands free device or and aftermarket system that would connect through the radio, the law only permits ‘factory installed units’ from the automaker. Who is it again that is writing big checks to politicians? Not a very obvious push of agenda at all is it?

  • ArlingtonChick

    How would enforcement work here? People talk on hands free cell phones all the time. They also look like they are talking to themselves in the car. Also, people talk to themselves in the car. So does that mean crazy people will be pulled over a lot? And what if it’s just a person talking to their dog (unseen) or child in a child seat (also unseen)? That’s a lot of pulling over for nothing.

    Handsfree is fine. If drivers don’t use cell phones as a distraction, they will use something else. I know I’ve stared at houses while driving by and gotten distracted and had to react quickly. And that’s just looking at the scenery!

    • CrystalMikey

      Yeah, what if I’m just singing along to some music?

    • They will put a chip in the car which will detect and record the cell phone use. When you go in for your annual safety inspection they will scan the ODB2 port and a flag will raise that your cell phone was active while your engine speed was high. Busted.

      Laugh, but that could easily happen.

      • Zoning Victim

        I’m not laughing because I just saw a news report that they’re already working on Bluetooth software to install in cars that will be able to disable the driver’s mobile phone while they’re driving. It can even tell the driver’s phone from the phones of the passengers.

        • Southeast Jerome

          How does this not make the ACLU people go crazy??

          Seriously? Chips in our cars? GTFO.

          That is absolutely insane, this isnt Iran or Saudi Arabia.

  • novasteve

    Also won’t pulling people over for cell phones be another catalyst for accusations of “racial profiling”?

  • Hope

    Not to worry OnStar will get some lobbyists on this right away. I think hands-free will always be around.

  • novasteve

    Funny how more people are harmed, by far, from distracted driving, drunk driving, etc than from second hand smoke, yet which got banned? We now live in a nanny state. You didn’t object, so enjoy having your lives controlled by do gooders.

  • Values Voter

    What is all this claptrap about “studies” and “facts”? It’s all about what I *believe* to be true.

  • novasteve
  • Clarendon Cruiser

    I’m going to have to get better with texting with my bare toes (while wearing flip-flops, of course!) whilst driving 😉

    btw, I easily get distracted by a doe eyed beauty driving a small VW next to me

  • soarlslacker

    If only they could ban stupid people who do NOT pay attention from driving at all. I estimate 75% of the mommies driving minivans that I encounter on the road are also talking on a phone that they are holding up to their ear. They do not use indicators since they are driving with 1 hand and often they have a car full of kids. I should not have to avoid the errors of the incompetent just to stay alive. Maybe the driving test should also include an IQ test. Perhaps the driving test should also measure the applicant’s competency at doing more than I thing at a time. I do not use the phone while in the car because I value my own life. No phone call is more important than my safety and that of my dogs that are often in my car.

    • Done and Done

      They are also the ones going at least 15mph over the speed limit in a school zone.

  • SamsontheCat

    First, how would they enforce it when more cars have synch features or you can just plug your phone into the radio? Is it in the power of the police to ask to pull you over and ask to see your phone to make sure you didn’t make a call in the last five minutes? I don’t think so.

    Second, how would such a ban make anything safer? Are you going to ban people having phones in cars at all? If not, people will get a call and immediately pull off the road to answer it. That seems much safer. The first day they’d enforce it the number of crashes from people swerving across three lanes on the Beltway to talk on their Blackberries will skyrocket. The only benefit I see here is that it’ll finally give people an excuse to block in cops parked off to the side of the road. “I’m sorry officer that you can’t pull out. I have a really important meeting I need to call into. You’re going to have to sit here for the next 2 hours while I take it.” For that matter, let’s ban police CB radios. How is a call on a radio any different than a cell call?

    • novasteve

      You don’t look at the CB radio. You can keep your attention on the road while using one, unlike if you dialing with a handheld phone. The thing you hold with a CB has no pretty graphics and things to look at you just speak into it. The knobs you turn for a CB radio is no different than using your air conditioner…

  • b0rk


    Wait, what are we rabbling about now?

  • is this such a surprise when you see data like this http://ityb.it/UMoXct showing 33% of drivers text while driving or U.S. Department of Transportation Latest Faces of Distracted Driving Video http://ityb.it/cyhNN6 ? The main issue is going to be how on earth they regulate any of this. in NYC that banned taxi drivers from speaking on cell or head sets while driving. that lasted about a week. not to mention the new interactive dash boards going in to the new cars…. this should have been better thought our before the auto companies where given the green light… all in all a good idea. but next to impossible to in-force..


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