Congratulations are in order for the City of San Antonio. Its ban on the use of hand held communication devices while driving went into effect on January 1, 2015. Fines up to $200 for violators start on the first of February.
There is an exception. Drivers without wireless devices can make phone calls while driving in San Antonio if there is an emergency.
San Antonio isn’t the only city in Texas with a ban. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) says 40 other cities in Texas have enacted similar bans since 2009. According to the state agency, “… drivers who use cell phones in their vehicles have a higher risk of collision.”
Some bans in cities around the Lone Star State are tougher than others. Fines can run as high as $500. Some forbid drivers to use any kind of device to talk on the phone while driving. Some only ban texting while driving. Others, like San Antonio, allow drivers to talk behind the wheel if they use a wireless device like Blue Tooth.
Drivers without these devices should pull over if they have to use their cell phones. It’s better to spend a few minutes on the side of the road making a call, than waiting up to an hour while police clear the roadway before getting a ticket for causing a wreck that could also have injured others.
Some drivers may object to the bans. They believe in multitasking. But experts point to scientific studies showing there is no such thing as safe multi-tasking while driving.
According to The National Safety Council (NSC), scientific research on multitasking shows that the human brain constantly switches between “thinking tasks” when it is has to do both at the same time. Talking and driving are thinking tasks. So neither task has a driver’s full attention. The studies conclude that talking on the phone while driving, even with a wireless device, can be dangerous.
The NSC cites more than 30 studies that reach the same conclusion. And its website tells the story of a 12-year old boy who was “…killed by a young woman who didn’t see a red light because she was talking on the phone, even though four cars and a school bus had stopped in the next lane. Witnesses saw her on her phone looking straight ahead, and she never braked.”
The NSC says many other accidents, fatal or otherwise, clearly show that drivers using cell phones are “looking” without “seeing.” The agency is calling for an end to the “The Great Multitasking Lie.”