New Yorkers Don't Shut Up and Drive Despite Law
By Eric Lin, Tue Sep 02 20:30:00 GMT 2003

18 months after a New York law made it illegal to talk on a mobile phone without a hands free kit while driving, it appears that drivers there have resumed conversations as normal.

A few months before the law went into effect in early 2002, police and highway patrol were handing out numerous warnings to drivers. The state and wireless carriers also sponsored ad campaigns to inform drivers and sell or give away hands-free kits. This strong front-end push effectively convinced residents to put down their cell phones and drive, but only for a short time.

The New York Times reports a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows that by March 2003, about a year after the law had gone into effect, rates of chatty drivers had returned to pre-law numbers. The study points out that warning messages and ad campaigns disappeared soon after the law's passage and very few tickets (less than 2% of total tickets) have been written for cell phone violations.

Numerous studies still cannot agree on whether talking on a cell phone while driving is dangerous, or at least more dangerous than tuning a radio or having a conversation with other passengers. This doubt seems to be reflected in both the lack of enforcement, and New Yorker's subsequent chatting without fear of citation.

Maybe laws like New York's were passed too early. Or, as the study concludes, maybe New York needs to treat talking on a cell phone like not wearing a seat belt in the late 80s and early 90s- advertising constantly and ticketing heavily.