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Evanston Mulls Ban On Hands-Free Phone Calls While Driving

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Hands-Free Phone

A Nokia BH-904 Bluetooth headset is displayed at the 2009 International Consumer Electronics Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center January 8, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The headset features a sliding boom and dual microphone and provides five hours of talk time from a 15-minute charge. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Officials in Evanston are considering a ban on all cell phone calls while driving – even hands-free phones – believing they distract even the best of drivers.

CBS 2’s Mike Parker reports the idea of it is making some people in Evanston cringe.

“That’s Evanston for you, man. They’re always trying to do something innovative,” Chicago businessman Theon Reynolds said sarcastically on Wednesday about the proposal.

Reynolds is among those railing against the proposal before the Evanston City Council to expand the ban on handheld cell phone use while driving, to include hands-free devices.

Tim Schoolmaster, the retired head of the Evanston Police Department traffic bureau, said, “We need to get our arms around this, before we get more people killed.”

Schoolmaster said he believes drivers can still be distracted and dangerous while talking on a hands-free cell phone.

“Hands-free does not remove the cognitive load, and that’s the problem. When you’re engaged in a conversation on the phone, it’s very demanding. It’s very important to you, and instead of operating the vehicle, you’re somewhere else,” he said.

Reynolds disagrees. In an interview on his Bluetooth-enabled phone as he drove through Evanston, he said he still felt in full control of his car.

“Absolutely. It doesn’t affect me at all. It makes driving seamless,” he said. “There’s nothing that my phone would possibly stop me from doing.”

But Ethan Spotts with the Active Transportation Alliance countered, “You’re still distracted, you’re 22 times more likely to cause a crash” while talking on a phone while driving.

“You’re not in the moment, being part of a safe network of getting around,” He added.

The proposal has cleared an Evanston City Council committee a 4-1 vote. The vote by the full council, however, is still weeks away.

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