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Verizon Backs Law Restricting Cell-Phone Use

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    maybe the tide is turning? Verizon Backs Law Restricting Cell-Phone Use Wall Street Journal; New York, N.Y.; Sep 26, 2000; By Nicole Harris And Jeffrey Ball;
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 27, 2000
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      maybe the tide is turning?


      Verizon Backs Law Restricting Cell-Phone Use
      Wall Street Journal; New York, N.Y.; Sep 26, 2000; By Nicole Harris And
      Jeffrey Ball;
      Copyright Dow Jones & Company Inc Sep 26, 2000

      NEW YORK -- Verizon Wireless, the nation's largest wireless provider, broke
      ranks with the wireless industry by backing legislation that would ban the
      use of hand-held cell phones while driving.
      The move by Verizon on such a hot-button issue essentially splits the
      industry into two camps. Until now, most carriers have been touting the
      "education not legislation" approach that seeks to teach drivers how to use
      their cell phones safely while driving. Under that scenario, the phone
      companies have been urging their customers to use hands-free devices such as
      earphones while driving, but have been opposed to legislation of any kind.
      The federal government, as well as state and local governments across the
      country, are stepping up their efforts to discourage cell-phone use on the
      road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warned the wireless
      industry in a meeting in July that it would begin advising consumers not to
      use their cell phones or other potentially distracting gadgets while behind
      the wheel. The reason: Growing research suggests cell-phone use by drivers
      causes accidents. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine
      in 1997 found that a driver talking on a cell phone is about four times as
      likely to get into a crash as a driver who isn't.
      Persuaded by such studies, an increasing number of states and cities have
      tried to order drivers to put down their handsets. But most of those efforts
      have been defeated with the help of lobbyists from the cell-phone industry,
      which depends on drivers for a big chunk of its profits. Outside the U.S.,
      efforts to restrict cell-phone use on the road have been more successful;
      several foreign countries have imposed rules, most of them barring drivers
      from using hand-held phones.
      Verizon's surprise move came about as part of a convoluted problem in
      Illinois. A committee of Chicago aldermen is considering a proposal to
      require drivers to use hand-held cell phones only with headsets. The problem
      is that there is already an Illinois law that bans the wearing of any type
      of earphones while driving. Drivers in Chicago would actually be left not
      being able to use cell phones in their cars at all.
      Annette Jacobs, president of Verizon's Great Lakes Area, testifying before
      the Traffic Control and Safety Committee of the Chicago City Council, said
      Verizon would support the repeal of the Illinois headset law and support
      passage of a statewide ban on using cellphones in cars with anything but a
      hands-free device.
      The use of headsets would be phased in over a period of three years,
      according to a Verizon official. Shortly after hearing Ms. Jacobs's
      testimony, the committee postponed its vote on the proposal.
      If the proposal is adopted as law, Chicago would become the biggest U.S.
      municipality to ban the use of cell phones while driving. The Chicago
      ordinance would set a fine of $25 for a first offense and as much as $100 if
      use of a cell phone was found to have contributed to an accident.
      "This goes well beyond where the rest of the industry is," a Verizon
      spokesman said. Verizon, a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc., New
      York, and Britain's Vodafone Group, serves more than 20 million wireless
      customers.
      Still, several studies have concluded that hands-free phones are just as
      dangerous because, although they let a driver keep both hands on the wheel,
      they, too, divert the driver's attention from the road. Given that research,
      Verizon's announcement doesn't go far enough, said Fran Bents, a former
      NHTSA official who supports legislation banning all cell-phone use by
      drivers while a vehicle is moving.
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