April 11, 2008
West U stands firm against AT&T

Despite the pushback they have gotten from AT&T over the proposed ban on cellphones in school zones, with or without hands-free gadgets, the city of West University Place is holding firm in its desire to pass that ordinance.

West U Mayor Bob Kelly said he has "absolutely not" gotten any adverse reaction to the council's decision.

"From my pharmacist to the people I work with, to residents of West U, I have heard nothing but praise," Kelly said. "I did get one e-mail from a West U resident who said, basically, that we shouldn't have a cell phone ordinance."

Kelly said he remains convinced that a ban on all cell phone use in school zones -- whether the phones are hand-held or hands-free -- is in the interest of public safety.

Scientific studies show the issue is the distraction caused by conversations, whether a driver is holding the cell phone or using a hands-free device, Kelly said.

"Unless AT&T comes up with something to refute the scientific evidence, I don't see any reason the council won't go ahead and pass the ordinance," Kelly said. "I think AT&T is a fine company. I just think it may not be in their best business interest."

West U Mayor Pro Tem Bob Fry said he's received more e-mails about the ordinance than any other issue during his first year on the council. Those e-mails have been "overwhelmingly" supportive of the cell phone ban, Fry said.

As the city's representative on the Houston-Galveston Area transportation policy committee, Fry said officials from a number of other area cities have commented positively on the West U ordinance.

"It is being watched very closely, so closely that AT&T has come down on us," Fry said.

"It did bother me, I have to admit it did," Fry said. "But you think about it, and it's just right."

Again, I'm fine with this ordinance, though I admit I can see AT&T's perspective in wanting there to be a uniform statewide standard. If they want to lobby for that in the Lege - and by that, I mean actually work to craft a law that will address the issue and get passed - I'd support that effort. In the meantime, I don't object to what West U is doing, and if their law and that of places like Highland Park causes that kind of state law to come about by other means, that's okay too.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 11, 2008 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

I'm curious -- is talking on a hands-free device any more dangerous statistically than speaking with another person in the vehicle?

Posted by: Rhymes With Right on April 12, 2008 6:50 AM

My limited layman's understanding of the difference between the two is that a passenger in the car can see when it's a good time to speak and when it's a good time to pause and let you concentrate on driving; obviously, this is not something that a person on the phone can do. As such - and I'm sure I'm grossly oversimplifying here - there is a difference, and talking on the phone, handsfree or not, is more dangerous.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on April 13, 2008 10:05 PM