Is driving while on cellphone worth the risk?

The NTSB recommends an outright ban on all cellphone use by drivers. It won't happen because too many believe the convenience is worth the risks.

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Most people know it is extremely dangerous to text, email or chat on a cellphone while driving. Yet few are willing to put away their electronic devices, particularly their cellphones, when they get behind the wheel.

Most of us like to think it's the other guy who is always the oblivious buffoon who weaves through traffic with a cellphone glued to his ear and we are the skilled drivers who can handle the electronic multitasking. Sorry, we are them.

And this is why the National Transportation Safety Board issued a report this week calling for an outright ban on the use of electronic devices by drivers. The NTSB declared texting, emailing or chatting on a cellphone -- even with a hands-free device -- simply too dangerous to be allowed anywhere in the United States.

But despite the stern warning of the NTSB the liklihood of a nationwide cellphone ban becoming law is near zero.

People (voters) are not willing to give up their cellphones when in the car and elected officials are not willing to make them.

Apparently the public can accept the deaths and injuries as an acceptable trade off for the convenience of making phone calls while driving.

It is already illegal in Washington state (and eight other states) to text, email or talk on a cellphone held to your ear while driving. A total of 35 states ban only texting.

But while most know cellphone use while driving is dangerous, few are willing to stop using cellphones. The law is being broken every second of every day. Look around. Stand on the corner of any intersection in Walla Walla and car after car passes with drivers who have cellphones to their ears.

Ironically, drivers would be legal if they simply took their cellphone calls using a Bluetooth system or put their phones on speaker mode. As long as it is away from the ear it is legal.

Yet, drivers don't care if anybody sees them breaking the law. There is almost no societal pressure to stop using cellphones despite studies that show the practice can be as dangerous as drunken driving.

This is frustrating for those who have long known -- and accepted -- what the NTSB concluded on its unanimous recommendation.

State Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, spent a decade convincing her colleagues in the Washington Legislature to approve the current law.

"I drive two hours a day to and from Olympia, and I still see people using cellphones and texting," Eide said. "It's a societal issue. People have to come to terms with how dangerous it is."

She's right. Unfortunately, the risk of using a cellphone while driving is not only to those breaking the law, but every person who shares the roads with them.

But an outright ban isn't likely to occur in Washington or any other state because we, as a society, simply enjoy the convenience of using our cellphones while driving and we aren't willing to give it up.

Apparently we see the risks -- the deaths and injuries -- as acceptable.

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