An issue that has been of some concern to the telecommunication industry in recent years is that of cellular phone use while operating a motor vehicle. This issue has been the subject of much debate among consumer, industry and government stakeholders. Most consumer stakeholders, such as the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, agree that cell phone use while driving is an unsafe and hazardous distraction, while others feel that it is a new luxury provided by the advances in telecommunication. For industry stakeholders, this issue provides added markets for technological advances. For example, the sale of “hands-free” cellular phone devices has increased profits for many cell phone distributors. Another industry stakeholder, the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA), uses the issue of “phoning and driving” as a chance to educate and inform the public on the advantages of motorized cellular phone use.
The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety represents a consumer stakeholder because it is an alliance comprised of consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies that work together to make the roads safer in America. They encourage the adoption of federal and state laws regarding driver safety. Their stance on the use of cellular phone use while driving is limit driver distraction. They propose that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) should “develop human factors criteria and determine needs for driver attention and use this research as the basis for regulating the proliferation of in-vehicle displays and other in-vehicle technology that divert driver attention” (www.savvymotoring.com). This broad restriction also includes limitations on cell phone use. Their consumer studies and statistics show that 76 percent of Americans favor legislation that would restrict the use of cell phones while driving and 83 percent want more attention paid to the issue of cell phone use by drivers.
An industry stakeholder, the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA), represents several companies in a campaign to promote responsible use of wireless phones. They put a different spin on the studies done by consumer stakeholders. Instead of addressing the distractions cell
phones may cause to drivers, CTIA points out that there are several much more distractive activities that a driver could engage in while driving. For example, one statistic shows that far more drivers admit that eating is their number one distraction when driving. Another excuse is that cell phone drivers are very rare and just “44 percent of drivers admit to using a cell phone” (www.drivingtoday.com). CTIA also notes that cell phones are beneficial to drivers, not dangerous. Having a cell phone can be useful in case of an emergency, breakdown or traffic accident.
Ultimately, CTIA’s position is that before legislators move forward on cell phone driving restrictions, they should consider CTIA’s three-pronged approach. That 1.) additional data collection is necessary. Before laws are passed, the government must first prove that cell phone use while driving is harmful. Also, legislators should first 2.) enforce existing laws that prohibit unsafe driving due to driver inattention or distraction, because statistically, cell phone use is not the biggest driving distraction. Finally, CTIA addresses that 3.) education is key- so the drivers themselves are first educated on how to simultaneously manage their vehicles and cell phones safely before the government bans motorized cell phone use altogether (www.wow-com.com).
Through my experience as a motorist as well as a cell phone user, I have welcomed the ability to communicate via cell phone while in transit. Technology has provided the world with a convenience that has changed our way of life. Everything is becoming portable and easily accessible. Pay phones will soon be obsolete. However, with this new luxury comes responsibility. I must admit, I frequently use my cell phone while driving, but if it in any way becomes too much of a distraction, I turn it off. I’m not a big talker. I don’t like to ramble on the phone- it’s unnecessary and it wastes minutes. I believe that moderate use of cell phones while driving is acceptable, but only for urgent calls and emergencies, but there is no way to regulate that. Before any laws are passed, I’m going to have to agree with CTIA’s position on the issue. To first collect data on the issue, enforce existing laws and educate the public.