Could US drivers ever abide by cellphone ban?

By Jamie Stengle

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 14 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

McGovern, who said he uses hands-free technology 90 percent of the time, said he's been conducting business from his car for more than 20 years, starting with an early "bag phone" that predated today's much smaller cellphones.

"It's a total overreach of the government. It'll be enforced erratically. They can't even enforce the speed limits," McGovern said.

Boston attorney Jeffrey Denner said he racks up at least 25 billable hours each week while driving.

"I probably spend three hours a day on the phone in the car — minimum. In an hour, I can talk to 10 people. On my way to court, I call people to make sure witnesses are lined up. It's become a part of my life."

Besides, he said, there's plenty of other distractions modern drivers deal with.

"If you want to talk about distraction, you should talk about how the whole notion of technology is distracting. Let's look at the command centers in cars right now, with the GPS, climate control, satellite radio with 9,000 options, looking down, getting directions. There are 20 different things we're playing with in our cars all the time."

J.R. Maddox of Minneapolis, another attorney, said it makes no sense to ban hands-free devices.

"If they wanted to go that far, they should also ban speaking to anyone in the car," Maddox said. His hands-free device allows him to keep both hands on the wheel, maintain his field of vision and look over his shoulder.

"The fact of the matter is we have to travel to work. It would reduce the amount of time I could actually communicate with clients and, hence, billing time."

The federal government last year banned texting while driving for commercial truck and bus drivers. The ban was extended to all hand-held cellphone use last month, although commercial drivers can still use hands-free devices.

The chairman of a South Dakota trucking company said he doesn't understand why people need to be talking on the phone while driving in the first place.

"There's nothing so important that they need to run somebody over because they couldn't stop," said Larry Anderson, of A & A Express Inc., a Brandon, S.D., company that hauls refrigerated products.

In New York City, Chrissy DeLuso and her mother were waiting for a cab to take them to a Broadway show. Both women agreed that texting while driving was a bad idea and didn't mind if the government cracked down on it.

But when it came to banning all cellphone use, they hesitated.

With a smile, DeLuso admitted she "can't promise" she wouldn't be talking on her cell phone even if it were illegal.

Jo Trizila, president of Dallas public relations company Triz Com, said she would welcome a comprehensive ban, even for hands-free technology.

"I think it would be actually good for mental health," she said, "that you just have some down time."

Associated Press writers Kelly P. Kissel in Little Rock, Denise Lavoie in Boston, Deepti Hajela in New York City, Kristi Eaton in Sioux Falls, S.D., Matthew Barakat in McLean, Va., and Joan Lowy in Washington contributed to this report.

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