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[html] Proposed cell ban 'not good enough'
Injury-prevention expert opposes hands-free chatter
By CARTER HAYDU, SUN MEDIA
The Calgary Sun
EDMONTON — Premier Ed Stelmach isn't going far enough by suggesting Alberta may make it illegal for drivers to chat on hand-held cellphones, says an injury prevention expert.
Dr. Louis Francescutti, an emergency physician in Edmonton, is urging the provincial government to also make it illegal for motorists to use hands-free devices while behind the wheel.
Stelmach recently told the Sun's Rick Bell he would look into the potential of banning hand-held cellphone use while driving, provided there was strong evidence such a ban would result in collision reductions.
Stelmach wants to find out how the Newfoundland and Labrador cellphone driving ban implemented in 2003, has affected vehicle accident rates in that province.
However Francescutti, an outspoken injury researcher, said Newfoundland's law is a flawed example of a cellphone ban, because it doesn't include hands-free devices, which Francescutti said are just as dangerous.
"It's the equivalent of driving impaired."
Francescutti said the danger of cellphone driving isn't so much due to holding the device, as it is as the nature of conversation one has on the phone.
When talking with a passenger in a car, the passenger is fully aware of the road conditions and adjusts his or her conversation with the driver accordingly. However, when a driver is talking on the phone, the person on the other end has no idea of the road conditions and talks in a way that forces the driver to give more attention to the conversation than to driving. Francescutti said he's glad the premier would consider a cellphone driving ban, but thinks an effective ban must include hands-free devices. Meanwhile, Liberal leader Kevin Taft said he would support any bill the Tories brought forward banning cellphone use while driving. But until such a bill actually comes before the legislature, Taft said he wouldn't get too excited about the premier's comments.
The government already voted down a proposed cellphone ban in 2002, which was brought forward by the Liberals.
Brian Mason, NDP leader, said he's glad the premier would look into the potential of a cellphone driving ban. However, he said anything the government proposed would require a lot of research and public education.
Francescutti said drivers should turn phones to vibrate and place them out of sight, not bothering with the phone while in the vehicle at all.
"No one is that important they need to be in constant communication," he said.
Submitted by Brian VE6CKC
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