National Public Radio reports that as of the 1st of November, Philadelphia will extend a ban on handheld cell phones to non-motorists---principally, cyclists, skateboarders and inline skaters. The new legislation is the most restrictive of its kind in the nation. Those caught violating the regulations will subject themselves to weighty fines upwards of 150 U.S. dollars. In this radio piece, NPR interviewer Windsor Johnston gets a variety of reactions from motorists, ranging from angry critiques to positive praise. One skateboarder remarks sarcastically that he’d still be able to drink a Big-Gulp slurpee and talk on a blue-tooth headset.
This praise is still stubbornly short-sighted---studies have repeatedly revealed that the risks and distractions associated with cell-phone use are not exclusively related to manual coordination but rather a consequence of displaced driver’s attention, hands free or not. The New York Times reported earlier this year that ‘motorists talking on a phone are four times as likely to crash as other drivers, and are as likely to cause an accident as someone with a .08 blood alcohol content.’
For now, it will be interesting to see how other cities react to Philadelphia’s mildly proactive regulations.