Judging from the number of individuals still driving around Grand Cayman while talking on their hand-held cell phones, it’s clear a government-approved ban on the use of those devices in cars hasn’t yet taken effect.
Don’t worry; Royal Cayman Islands Police Service Chief Superintendent John Jones said last week that police would provide some warning and education for the public ahead of the ban.
“We have asked government for at least a two-week period (ahead of the hand-held cell phone ban taking effect),” Mr. Jones said. “So, whenever the Traffic Law does take effect we can warn drivers about the new rules.”
Mr. Jones said in the weeks prior to the new law going into the official books, police working traffic detail would give drivers information about the hand-held cell phone ban, how it works and what devices can and can’t be used. In some cases, motorists might even be stopped for driving while using a hand held cell phone; they just won’t get a ticket.
Government officials haven’t set a time line for when the remainder of the new provisions in the Traffic Law, approved by legislators last year, will take effect. Regulations to the law are still being drafted and it’s likely those won’t be completed until at least April. The proposed fine for driving with a hand held cell phone is $100 per ticket.
After it was left out of the original draft of the Cayman Islands Traffic Bill early in 2011, a partial ban on using hand-held cell phones while driving was put back into the legislation by the end of the year.
The law now states the phone has to be “secured in a mounting affixed to the vehicle while the mobile telephone is being used”. It also requires the phone “does not require the pressing of more than one button on the mobile phone to make, receive or terminate a telephone call”.
Both these requirements have to be adhered to for mobile phone use to be legal while driving.
The bill does not make it an offence to call 911 on a hand-held cell phone to report an emergency to police, fire or ambulance crews. It also allows the use of hand-held phones in a vehicle that has been stopped and is out of the way of traffic; that does not include drivers who are backed up in traffic jams at stop lights or stop signs.
Both the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and an association from the Seventh-day Adventist Church have advocated for a cell phone ban, at least for hand-held cellular devices while driving.
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency did some preliminary research in 2010 about efforts to ban texting and cell phone use while driving in the United States. No similar data currently exists within the Cayman Islands.
According to the agency’s research, 30 out of 50 US states have banned text messaging while driving for all drivers. Eight other states have partial bans on texting while driving.
The agency quoted other research from the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society that blamed cell phone “distraction” for 2,600 deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries in the US each year.
“The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society have also identified that drivers talking on cell phones are 18 per cent slower to react to brake lights and that they also take 17 per cent longer to regain the speed they lost when they braked,” the agency noted.
The group also cited another study from the University of Utah that indicated driving while using a cell phone was as dangerous as drink driving.
“Earlier this year [referring to 2010], a truck driver killed 11 people in Kentucky and it appears from the investigation that he was operating a cell phone while operating his tractor-trailer,” the group’s research stated. “Published reports show that he was receiving and making cell phone calls in the moments leading up to the accident.”
In conclusion, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency stated: “Texting while operating a motor vehicle poses the highest risk for cell phone usage on a public road. Although using hand-held phone devices while driving are not banned by the majority of US states, it is still considered to be a huge distraction while driving.”