Tough new cell phone laws in Wilmington

WILMINGTON, Del. - December 31, 2009

A tough new law goes into effect January 1st that requires the use of hands-free cell phone devices on the road.

In the crosshairs are texting, email, and dialing without a hands-free accessory.

"You cannot place a call, receive a call, surf the web, place a text or receive a text while driving in the City of Wilmington," said Master Sergeant Steven Barnes of the Wilmington Police.

At Boyd's Flowers, where wireless and delivery go hand-in-hand, that means new rules for drivers.

"They're going to have to pull over now to make or take a phone call," said Chuck Cinaglia of Boyd's Flowers.

It may slow things down, but Cinaglia says, "It has to be done. We all saw this coming."

But do hands-free laws really work? Research shows it depends on whether you are asking about texting or talking behind the wheel.

Safety groups say a ban on texting while driving can remove a major distraction on the roads.

"Text messaging is the epitome of distracted driving," said Cathy Rossi of AAA Mid-Atlantic. "AAA is on a campaign to ban it in all 50 states."

However, when it comes to talking, you face an equal risk whether you use a hands-free device or not. That's because, research shows, it's the conversation that often distracts the driver.

"The more emotionally engaged we are in the conversation, the greater the risk," Rossi said. "There a misperception that if we're talking on a hands-free device, we're safer. We're not. There's just as much risk."

AAA says studies show that drivers who use a cell phone while driving are four times more likely to be involved in a crash, whether the phone is in your hand or not.

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