In recent years, the city of San Francisco sought to blaze a safety trail with the passage of a law that required cellphone retailers to explain to consumers the potential radiation danger they were put in when they purchased a cellular device. Specifically, every purchase of a cellphone would have required the disclosure of radiation emission levels and a Fact Sheet warning that users need to keep the phones sufficiently far away from reproductive organs and the brain. Similar posters also would have been erected in stores.
But the passage of that law in 2010 triggered a lengthy legal battle that now might finally be reaching its conclusion. CTIA-The Wireless Association, a cellular trade group, sued San Francisco, citing First Amendment protection afforded to merchants who don’t have to hand out information they don’t agree with.
At the federal level, the law was upheld minus the radiation warnings (a fact sheet would have still been required), but a federal appeals court overturned the decision in September, explaining that San Francisco’s opinion couldn’t be used to mandate the law. Radiation dangers have to be indisputably and scientifically proven.
Although the two sides would have been back in court in February of next year, a settlement has now been reached which will see the law struck down. And citizens won’t be forced to pay the estimated six figure attorney fees thought to be accumulated by San Francisco’s lawyers in the case. Approval by the Board of Supervisors is pending.
The Government Accountability Office has released a report stating that cellphone radiation standards need to be updated. It has been 15 years since limits were first implemented, and technology has evolved since that time. Currently, federal standards as mandated by the FCC don’t take into account longterm exposure, the effect on children, and they let up to 20 times more radiation reach a person’s head than the rest of their body. The GAO wants the FCC to reevaluate their requirements for radiation, as well as how best to measure such.
Click here to learn more about the report.
It is no longer illegal to briefly handle or touch your cellphone while driving your car in Ontario. A provincial court justice has ruled that holding a cellphone requires more than just touching or briefly picking up the device while behind the wheel of your car. This finding overturned a ruling by a Justice of the Peace who had ruled that a Toronto woman was guilty of merely holding her cellular phone while waiting at a red light. The woman had picked the phone up from the floor of the car.
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Text messaging is becoming continually more widespread in the United States, a trend many law enforcement offers across the country view as cause for concern. In 2011, Americans read or composed approximately 196 billion text based messages, a figure marking a 50 percent increase from 2009. In response to the increasing prevalence of text messaging, the North Carolina Highway Patrol has declared June to be “No Texting, Just Driving Month,” and the law enforcement agency aims to increase public awareness of the dangers sending or reading text messages while operating a moving automobile can cause to drivers and others attempting to share the road. The public safety awareness program will be targeted especially toward teenage drivers, who statistics show, are more likely to distracted by text based messages while operating a vehicle. The increased enforcement effort targeting drivers violating the statewide ban on composing or reading text based messages from behind the wheel of a moving automobile will continue beyond the month of June. In 2008, nearly 6,000 people were killed in traffic collisions linked to distracted driving practices such as text messaging while driving in the state of North Carolina, according to accident statistics released by the North Carolina Highway Patrol. State law enforcement officers classify an accident as being linked to distracted driving if one of the motorists involved in the collision was engaged in any activity that took his or her eyes off the road ahead at the time the motorist’s car was involved in the crash.
More than 60,000 citations were issued to California motorists during the state’s Distracted Driving Awareness public safety campaign, which took place throughout the month of April. Of these distracted driving tickets, approximately 57,000 of the citations were issued for violations of the state’s ban on handheld cellphone use while driving. The increased enforcement of distracted driving related traffic violations was the result of a cooperative effort between law enforcement agencies at the state and local levels, more than 250 in total. In 2011, California law enforcement offices issued more than 168,000 citations for distracted behavior while behind the wheel. The state’s Office of Traffic Safety issued a statement declaring an increase in the number of distracted driving citations, up from the 52,000 citations issued for inattentive driving in April of 2011, at least partially due to the increasing propensity for using a handheld communication device while driving prevalent among teenage drivers. According to survey study results cited by the California Office of Traffic Safety, an estimated 18 percent of drivers between the ages f 16 and 25 years old use their cellphones while operating a moving motor vehicle. Internet enabled smart phones are also more prevalent, now comprising more than 50 percent of the cellphones in America, increasing the number of electronic distractions available to drivers. Using a handheld communication device for any non emergency reason without the use of a hands free device such as a Bluetooth transmitter, has been illegal in the state of California since 2008.
While traffic safety experts are increasingly warning of the dangers caused by distracted drivers, automakers are continually announcing new high tech features that allow drivers to connect to Wi-Fi internet and social networking platforms from behind the wheel. Car manufacturers including Nissan, Volkswagen, Ford, and General Motors are offering Wi-Fi connecting devices allowing in car access to websites such as Facebook and Twitter. Audi claims the spot as the first luxury carmaker to offer its customers access to Google Earth from behind the wheel, even as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has begun to suggest a nationwide ban on cellphone use while driving that makes no exemptions for using hands free devices such as Blutooth transmitters. According to the administrations official safety guidelines, drivers should not engage in any practice that takes focus off the road ahead for more than two seconds at a time. The administration also recommends that any high tech features allowing internet access be disabled unless the car’s transmission is in park, but the guidelines do not attempt to limit the number of devices available in vehicles. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics, more than 9 percent of all fatal highway accidents in 2010 were linked to distracted driving practices, a figure that amounted to more than 3,000 deaths that year, a figure that some safety experts speculate is too low due to the possibility that in many accidents, driver distraction is not reported. The National Safety Council estimates that nearly one in four collisions are related to inattentive driving.
Beginning in May, teenage drivers face the deadliest 100 days of the year for young motorists, and according to safety experts, text messaging and other cellphone related distractions are at least partially responsible. In the time between Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day, teenage drivers face a greater risk of being involved in a fatal car accident than at any other time throughout the year, safety experts say. Safety experts speculate that teenage drivers are more likely to be involved in fatal automotive accidents because they are unsure of how to handle high-risk situations and often respond incorrectly then cause more damage by attempting to amend their original mistake. The newest threat posed to teenage drivers is the distraction offered by handheld electronic communication devices. While only 3 percent of teenagers profess to believe that texting while driving is perfectly safe, an additional 40 percent admit to engaging in the practice despite the danger, according to the results of a recent survey. A new public safety awareness advertising campaign titled “It Can Wait” hopes to reduce these numbers by encouraging teenage drivers to put away their phones until they arrive at their destinations. According to safety experts, sending a text message takes a driver’s eyes away from the road ahead for an average of five seconds. If a car is moving at 65 miles per hour, it travels the length of a basketball court every single second.
April was declared National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and in response, law enforcement officials throughout the state of California launched increased enforcement campaigns designed to emphasize the state’s law banning all forms of communication using a handheld electronic device, including both text and voice communications, while behind the wheel of a moving vehicle on public roadways. One such focused enforcement effort conducted in the San Francisco Bay area resulted in citations issued to nearly 6,000 residents by the California Highway Patrol, according to a statement issued by the law enforcement agency. More than 5,900 tickets were issued to distracted drivers by California Highway Patrol officers along with officers from various local law enforcement agencies in the Bay Area within the month of April. In one memorable incident, a driver received a ticket for blocking a lane of traffic while texting, impeding the progress of an emergency response vehicle heading to the scene of a serious traffic accident. The motorist in this incident is reported to have been completely unaware that an emergency vehicle, lights flashing and siren blaring, was approaching his vehicle from behind. The increased enforcement initiative was part of the California Highway Patrol’s “It’s Not Worth It” public safety awareness campaign designed to encourage motorists to wait until they arrive at their destinations to take out their cellphones. Throughout the state of California, nearly 30,000 citations were issued for violations of the state’s laws against distracted driving practices.
Though approximately 80 percent of the young drivers responding to a Consumer Reports distracted driving survey agreed that using a handheld communication device for text based messaging or internet access while operating a moving vehicle is extremely dangerous, nearly three in ten survey respondents reported sending or receiving a text message while behind the wheel in the past month. Additionally, an estimated 63 percent of survey respondents said they considered talking on a handheld cellphone while driving to be hazardous behavior, but nearly half of the young drivers surveyed reported having a cellphone conversation while behind the wheel of a moving vehicle within the past month. Some analysts, when reviewing the results of this survey, speculated that the discrepancy between what young drivers profess to think about using handheld communication devices while driving, and their self-reported real world behavior can be explained as a response to the behavior they see exhibited by their peers and even by their parents.
More than 8 out of 10 young drivers surveyed reported witnessing other young drivers holding cellphone conversations while operating a moving automobile, 7 out of 10 reported seeing their peers text messaging, and more than 3 out of 10 respondents reported seeing other young drivers engaging in email communications or accessing social networking websites while behind the wheel. Additionally, nearly half of the respondents reported seeing their parents talking on a cellphone while driving.
According to a recent safety study released by the California Office of Traffic Safety, 11 percent of the drivers observed at various times of day at 130 various intersections across 17 counties in the state of California, were practicing cellphone related distracted driving habits. This figure marks an increase of four percent from the results of a similar study conducted in 2011. The demographic that marked the biggest increase in handheld communication use behind the wheel, was drivers 16 to 25 years old. Twice the number of motorists in this age group were observed using cellphones while driving, up from 9 percent in 2011 to 18 percent this year. Safety experts said the rise might be caused by an increase in the number of smart phones in the possession of young drivers. Another safety study conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Diego surveyed 5,000 college students between 18 and 29 years old in San Diego County, and found that approximately 78 percent of respondents reported using a handheld communication device while behind the wheel of a moving automobile. Half of the survey respondents said they engage in text based messaging while driving on the freeway, 60 percent of the respondents reported sending text messages in slow moving traffic, and 87 percent reported sending text messages at traffic signals. Since 2008, using a handheld communication device for any purpose including text and voice based communication while driving has been prohibited by state law in California.