Buying Into Cell Phone Ban

The V.I. Senate voted 8 to 5 to ban the use of handheld cell phones while driving, starting Jan. 2, 2006.

When Pete Townsend sang about “Going Mobile,” chances are that he wasn’t referring to the Motorola Razr. This week, going mobile with a mobile became more restrictive, when legislation limiting the use of cellular phones by drivers went into effect.

The law prohibits drivers from talking on cell phones without hands-free devices. Fines range from $25 to $100. Drivers charged with three or more infractions within three years could lose their licenses for up to a year.

Senator at Large Craig Barshinger, who co-sponsored the bill introduced by Sen. Roosevelt David and Senate President Lorraine Berry, said, “We are trying to help people with this very new phenomenon of cell phone use.”

Himself included.

“A lot of us are used to talking on cell phones while driving,” Barshinger said. “But no one drives as well with their attention focused on a phone conversation, and I also realized the need (for the bill) for myself to focus on driving.”

If the reported retail sales of hands-free devices in the territory are any indication, many people on the islands agree, at least in following the letter of the law. Some didn’t need legislative prompting.

“When I bought my cell phone I bought an earpiece,” remarked St. John resident David Sandberg. “But I’ve never used the earpiece, because I always pull over when I get a call.”

He explained that he finds fielding calls while driving too distracting even with a hands-free setup.

Additional Costs
Kim McCoy, another St. John resident, also pulls over for phone calls. She said that she may eventually purchase a hands-free set, but that the additional cost is making her wait awhile.

For the cost-conscious, Barshinger proposes earbuds, which are what he’s using.

“They’re the cheapest, at around $20.”

Barshinger recommends, however, that earbud users take the extra step of buying “very sturdy cords, because the thin ones that usually come with them wear out easily.”