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Banning cell phones while driving: one city's experience

March 15, 2012
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distracted drivingNational Transporation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairman Debbie Hersman says the experience of Evanston, Illinois illustrates how banning cell phone use while driving can drive down the number of distracted driving accidents.

In a post this week on the NTSB Safety Compass blog, Hersman hailed Alderman Jane Grover and Melissa Wynne from Evanston  as "safety champions." The two women helped enact a 2010 city council ban on the use of handheld cell phones for all drivers.

"In the past two years the city has issued about 3,000 tickets for hand-held violations, and 85 percent of those have been paid," noted Hersman. "That’s a higher rate than for other traffic violations. More importantly, Evanston has seen a dramatic decrease in accidents — vehicle/pedestrian as well as vehicle/vehicle accidents."

The Evanston city council is expected to widen the ban to include the use of all portable and on-board communications devices while driving within a few weeks. Experts say that even with hands-free devices, there is still a cognitive distraction.   

Hersman said improvements to safety can trickle down from the federal to local level – or it can build up from the local level. (The NTSB has proposed a nationwide ban on all personal electronic device use by drivers.)

"Evanston’s data demonstrates that they can better protect everyone on the road if drivers are attentive."

Click here to go to the NTSB blog.

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