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Minnesota should move quickly to ban cell phones while driving

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Frank Hornstein
Frank Hornstein: Study after study has shown the debilitating and often deadly effects of using cell phones while driving.
Courtey of Frank Hornstein

Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, is a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives.

On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board called for all 50 states and the District of Columbia to ban the use of cell phones while driving. With 76 deaths and 8,600 injuries reported last year in Minnesota due to distraction-related accidents, this call to action is a necessary and common sense solution in reducing traffic accidents and ensuring safer roads. 

Study after study has shown the debilitating and often deadly effects of using cell phones while driving. The National Safety Council found that those using cell phones while driving may look at the road, but fail to see up to half of the information in their driving environment, including other cars, bikers and pedestrians. Additionally, drivers using handheld devices are four times more likely to get into accidents that will result in injuries.  

Three years ago, I authored the bill to ban texting while driving, making Minnesota the third state to approve such legislation. Today, 35 states and the District of Columbia have banned texting while driving. We were forward-thinking on the issue of texting; we now have the opportunity to be a leader in limiting cell-phone use.    

Some will argue that banning the use of cell phones while driving is an infringement on personal rights and individual choice. Yet this choice can often be a danger to others as well as the individual choosing to talk on the phone while driving. For example, a University of Utah study showed that using a cell phone delays driver reactions in ways similar to alcohol impairment. 

The National Transportation Safety Board directive is a game-changer. The agency most directly charged with keeping our roads safe has confirmed that distracted driving is an urgent and critical issue. In fact, a study released just last week by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that at any given moment, approximately 13.5 million people are using their cell phones while driving. 

I believe NTSB Chairwoman Deborah A.P. Hersman said it well: "No call, no text, no update is worth a human life." Minnesota should take the NTSB's concerns seriously and work to limit the hazards of distracted driving.