Evanston Mulls Ban On Hands-Free Phone Calls While Driving

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.

  • s. sawyer

    This is ridiculous. Talking on a hands-free device is no different than talking to a person in the passenger seat or your kids in the back seat. What’s next — a no speaking at all in an automobile rule???

  • JeanSC

    These proposals all seem to ignore the differences in individual abilities and the value of step-by-step training to use cell phones safely while driving. That’s what I did for myself. Still there are times when one has to pull off the road to continue certain conversations. The key about distraction is that the driver has to make driving the top priority, and be prepared to suddenly turn away from any conversation when it’s needed. Experienced drivers have strong enough habits developed so that, for example, slamming on the brakes to prevent a collision is done as a reflex action, leaving room in the brain for other thoughts. One more problem: there’s probably some fine print in this proposal to allow drivers to make calls to 911 and not be penalized. If you’ve never been allowed to use your cell phone while driving and have no practice or training, you’re more likely to get into an accident while on your 911 call, especially if there’s heavy action going on and no place to pull over. A skill needed for emergencies always works better with practice in non-emergency situations.

  • joe

    Can the police still have a conversation on their radios? How distracting

  • Joseph Goebbels


  • sis

    Young children must be druged before a car ride as to prevent any outburst that could be distracting. Older children must follow the rules of no talking or distracting behavior or they will be muzzled and handcuffed or drugged. No radio or enjoyment of musical tunes running through the drivers head. No pets, radios, gps systems or people talking allowed in the car. You are not allowed to drive in Evanston if you are stressed, overly happy or sad or thinking about anything but driving. The Evanston police will stop anyone they think looks distracted and decide if they should be ticketed.

  • Me

    There have been multiple studies, including ones used by Chicago to prove that cell-phone use is a distraction, that show ‘hands-free’ is just as distracting as holding the phone. Its the conversation that is the problem, not the physical item. Also, there is little difference between changing the radio or eating a burger to talking on the phone.

    • BEST dam driver in Chicago

      Uh, I like to shave, talk, text, read the sports page ‘n munch on a double CHEEZY-burger while flyin’ down the Edens. Is that a problem?

      • Me

        You’ve driven past me a couple times…. :)

        As another poster said…it is really up to the abilities of the drivers. I’ve known folks that couldn’t walk down the street while talking on e a phone, yet they chat away on their car weaving down the road. Major white-knuckle ride…I’m the driver for lunch nowadays.

  • WetNurse

    Watch out folks don’t touch that dial. The nannies will save the day.

  • illinois voter

    Yes to evanston banning any cell phone,while driving is a good move.you got my vote.driving should be 100% attention without any distraction.people does not agree.too bad.

  • John Bosanac

    OK, great don’t use your cell phone while driving, now don’t use any hands free device. It must be hard to enforce the original idea of no cell phone, considering how many people including politicians and emergency responders still do. So, how would they enforce no hands free. Someone singing along with there music on the radio going to be stopped by police?

    • BEST dam driver in Chicago

      If they sing off-key, then yes. Why should the rest of us Feodor Chaliapins and Luciano Pavarottis be subject to such abuse?

  • THEE Yard Ape

    I think they should ban all soccer mom’s driving SUVs!!!! That would certainly make the roads safer!!!

    • leprechaun for a day

      How about soccer moms driving vans?

  • CF

    This law will be totally unenforceable. My hands free is part of my car…They would need to be sitting next to me in the car. With windows rolled up talking on my phone would like signing with the music or talk with the passengers. Just wait some one will get busted for this and there is no way to prove what you where talking too. The law should be against distracted and wreck less driving.

  • Rijos V Xavier

    Talking on hands free mobile phone while driving delays the reflex action of the driver by how many seconds?

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