USE COMMON SENSE WHEN DRIVING, PHONING

May 13, 2001 11:00 pm

Supermodel Niki Taylor did not volunteer to be a poster child for the DWCP debate. For the uninitiated, DWCP stands for driving while cell phoning. Taylor recently was critically injured when the driver of the vehicle in which she was riding heard his cell phone ringing and grabbed for it, taking his eyes off the road. The next everyone knew, the Nissan Maxima had struck a utility pole.

Cell phones have many useful purposes. The driver of Taylors vehicle used it to call 911 to summon medical help. This is not uncommon, as many drivers quickly call in accidents not involving themselves so medical teams can save time in response, and possibly save lives.

But hand-held cell phones can be distracting to drivers, and possibly deadly. A study published by The New England Journal of Medicine found the collision rates were similar from cell phone use and drunken driving.

Cell phones are becoming more and more common in America. More than 115 million Americans have purchased the wireless phones, and 80 percent of those responding to a recent survey said they use the devices while driving.

Something must be done to make the roads safe. At least 40 states, including Oregon, have thought about or are considering bills to limit the use of cell phones for drivers.

Auto insurers are considering adding a surcharge. The point is, distracted drivers, whether it is from kids bouncing around a car or devices that show maps and e-mail, are dangerous to the rest of us. Multi-taskers will likely face higher premiums in the future.

How to improve the situation? One suggestion is to purchase the hands-free devices designed to make cell phones safer for drivers. These devices include headphones, earpieces, voice-activated dialers and ports that turn cell phones into speakerphones. Another idea is to toughen already existing state traffic laws allowing officers to issue citations to distracted and reckless drivers. In the meantime, drivers should do the safe thing and pull over to make or take a call.

YOUR TURN: SHARE WAYS TO SAVE ELECTRICITY

With electricity rates scheduled to rise to unprecedented rates this fall, people are thinking about what can be done to reduce the amount used. And cutting down on demand in the coming months will help electricity suppliers hold down prices.

What are you doing to save electricity around the home? At work? Send in your suggestions by May 21, and well run them in the letters to the editor column as a community

service.