Could Drivers Face Total Cell Phone Bans?

But an industry trade association thinks the council is going too far.

"There are some real-life scenarios where those are important phone calls that you need to make or take," said John Walls, spokesman for The Wireless Association, such as calling to say you'll be late to pick up a child at day care or a call from your teenager trying to reach you because the movie let out early.

"A sensible, a responsible and a brief phone call, we think, can be made and sometimes needs to be made in order for life's everyday challenges to be met," Walls said.

Walls also disputed the council's view that talking on a cell phone while driving is inherently dangerous, saying the overall number of highway accidents have declined, even as cell phone use has skyrocketed.

Even groups that support a cell phone ban in vehicles aren't sure that passing legislation will prove effective.

"I don't think outright bans are enforceable," said Barbara Harsha, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association. "That's the biggest problem. So what is the point of passing a law that you can't enforce?"

Harsha said she believes this is a "growing, pervasive, problem," but said, "It's an issue in search of a good countermeasure."

Some believe technology that will disable cell phones while in a moving vehicle will ultimately prove to be the answer. Another solution: persuading businesses to ban cell phone use while employees are driving on the job.

Companies are increasingly doing that. Oil giant ExxonMobil was in the forefront of this movement, and four years ago told all employees to stop making or taking cell phone calls while driving.

Going Mobile During Traffic: Breaking the Habit

Thomas Kelly, an operations manager for the company who drives about 1,500 miles per month for business, admitted it was difficult to break the habit.

"It was a temptation," he said. "You look at the cell phone, it would be ringing, and you'd say, should I pick it up or should I not?"

Kelly, who carries both a work and a personal cell phone, now turns them off in the car. He said he's gotten used to just concentrating on his driving and even makes it a practice to follow the rule on his own time.

Kelly said it has not hurt his productivity and he knows the company acted because it's safer when employees concentrate 100 percent on their driving.

The National Safety Council admits that any effort to ban cell phones in vehicles will take years of work, whether it succeeds at all. The council likens it to campaigns to require seat belts and child safety seats in cars and to strengthen drunken-driving laws. At first drivers opposed many of those efforts. Now, they say this is accepted practice on the road, and few would want it any other way.

Suzan Gruber of Chicago, for one, said she'd welcome some time without a cell phone.

"That would be fantastic," she said. "That would be like the old days when nobody could get a hold of you."

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