The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) today applauded California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for signing legislation banning the use of cell phones by motorists.

In a letter to the Governor, ASSE Regional Vice President Terrie Norris, CSP, ARM, CPSI, of Long Beach, Calif., stated, "ASSE is very pleased with the passage and signing of legislation banning 16- and 17-year-old drivers from using cell phones, laptop computers and other electronic devices while they are driving. Although it does not go into affect until next year and is only a secondary offense, we urge teen drivers to begin now — to not use cell phones, pagers, laptops or anything that can distract them while driving. Not only could they lose their life, but they could cause the death of another person or family due to their distracted driving."

Norris is also pleased with a new California law prohibiting all drivers from using cell phones unless they are hands-free models. This bill also goes into effect next year.

"These laws are a step forward in increasing roadway safety and on-the-job safety, since for many workers their vehicle is their office and the number one cause of on-the-job deaths in the U.S. continues to be traffic crashes," Norris said.

In California alone, of the 448 people who lost their lives due to an on-the-job injury in 2006, 167 were involved in a transportation-related accident, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2006.

"Distracted driving is a safety problem," Norris said. "ASSE’s position is that operating a vehicle while using a cell phone is one of many potentially unsafe acts drivers do every day and needs to be addressed. We all know an accident can happen in a second."