Did you know that the risk of having a traffic accident while using a cellular phone is the same as that while driving drunk? That cell phone users are four to five hundred percent more likely to get into traffic accidents than those who do not use them at all?
Last week I read a tragic story about a two and 1/2 year old little girl named Morgan Lee Pena. She loved reading stories, playing in her backyard and lying on the couch with her daddy. She died on Nov. 3, 1999 as a result of injuries sustained in a car crash. A man whose attention was not on the road of the vehicle he was driving, but instead on the phone call he was making, ran a stop sign at 45 mph, broadsiding the vehicle, killing Morgan as she sat in her car seat.
According to a Quinnipiac University poll, 87 percent of NYS voters support a ban on using hand-held phones while driving, even 85 percent of cell phone owners support the ban. In an effort to cut down on accidents, Gov. Pataki has proposed legislation to ban cell phone use by NY motorists. If the bill is passed by the legislature, it would take effect Dec. 1. A violation would count as a traffic infraction, with fines of $25 to $100. A second violation within 18 months could cost the driver $100 to $300. The Department of Motor Vehicles could also impose points on a violator's license. However, emergency calls and calls using hands-free equipment would be allowed.
Please don't wait for a set of laws governing cell phone use on the road - use common sense now.
* Use your cell phone only when parked or have your passenger use it.
* Never dial the phone or take notes while driving.
* If your phone rings while driving, let the cellular voice mail service take the call and listen to the message later when you are parked.
* Make sure the phone is easy to see and reach.
* Get to know your phone and its features (such as speed dial and redial).
* If you must answer your phone, let the person you are speaking to know you are driving; suspend the call until you can pull over.
* Do not engage in stressful or emotional conversation (on your phone or with passengers in your car) that may divert your attention from the road.
These tips are meant to protect you and your family, and everyone else on the road. When used safely, cell phones are wonderful means of communication. The use of cell phones while driving has already been banned in Australia, Spain, Israel, Portugal, Italy, Brazil, Chile, Switzerland, Great Britain, Singapore, Taiwan, Sweden, Japan and Austria. I am hoping that we enact similar legislation here in New York. Morgan Lee Pena was a vibrant little girl who had her whole life ahead of her. We cannot allow these senseless tragedies to occur. We need to stop them now before another life is lost. I support this ban, and will do everything in my power to make the roadways a much safer place for everyone.