More states to enact laws banning cell phones in cars; studies show why

ConsumerMan: Don't gab and drive
More states to enact laws banning cell phones in cars; studies show why
By Herb Weisbaum
updated 4:41 p.m. ET, Thurs., June. 26, 2008

We all see it and many of us do it – chat on a cell phone as we drive. We know it’s distracting, but we convince ourselves we can handle it. Some people now use a hands-free device, believing it reduces the risk.

“I’m able to put two hands on the steering wheel and I’m able to concentrate on what’s going on around me,” says Romell Witherspoon of Renton, Wash.

For Nemesia Ramolete of Covington, Wash., hands-free means worry-free. “I don’t feel like I’m going to hurt anybody else on the road.”

Cell phone companies encourage going hands-free. Lawmakers in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia have validated this idea by banning drivers from talking on a cell phone unless they use a hands-free device. California and Washington join the list on July 1st.

“If we have readily available technology that costs next to nothing that saves lives, why not use it?” asks California state Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), who sponsored the bill. By having two hands on the wheel, he says, the driver is better able to handle an emergency situation.

“There isn’t a study in the world that says you are safer clutching a cell phone to your ear than you are with both hands on the wheel,” Simitian says.

But some research shows that hands-free calls are just as distracting as calls made on a handheld phone.

“The evidence is mounting that the conversation itself is the risk, not holding the phone,” says Russ Rader of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “The research shows the risk of having an accident is about four times higher for drivers using cell phones, whether it’s handheld or hands-free.”

I think we’ve all seen someone weaving in their lane while on a cell phone. That’s because a driver is not paying full attention to the road.

“Some degree of awareness changes when you’re talking on the phone and driving, and I think we all know this,” says Marcel Just, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University. “Just listening to someone talk on the phone while you are driving is going to reduce the quality of your driving performance,” he says.

Distraction equals danger
University of Utah psychology professor David Strayer has studied driver distraction for years. He says talking on the phone causes what’s called “inattention blindness.” The driver looks but does not always see things that are there, such as pedestrians, stop signs, traffic signals, or other vehicles.

Strayer uses simulators and sophisticated eye-tracking devices to see precisely where a test driver is looking. “They see about half of what they would normally see,” he says, “because talking on a cell phone has diverted attention from processing the information you need to be a safe driver.”

The difference is easily demonstrated with driving simulators. Professor Strayer tells test subjects to pull over when they see a rest area about eight miles up the road.

When no one is talking to the driver, every one pulls off at the right spot. If there’s a passenger talking, about 90 percent of the drivers are successful. In many cases, that’s because the passenger helps them remember to find the rest area. But when test subjects are talking on a cell phone 50 percent drive by the rest area. Why? “Because they simply didn’t see it,” he says.

Safety experts say speaking to someone next to you is different from talking to someone on the phone. Because the passenger is in the vehicle with you and can see what’s happening, the conversation tends to be less distracting.

“They function as an extra pair of eyes,” says Amit Almor, an associate professor of psychology at the University of South Carolina. “That person can respond to changing road conditions.” If they see a situation that is potentially dangerous or requires more attention, they can stop the conversation or alert the driver. A person on a cell phone doesn’t know what’s happening and will just continue talking.

Another viewpoint
A recent report from the Public Policy Institute of California says fatalities drop when hands-free laws are enacted. The institute studied accident statistics from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia and found traffic fatalities dropped significantly after the laws took effect.

Study author Jed Kolko says hands-free laws “reverse some of the dangerous effects of using mobile phones.” And he predicts California’s new law will reduce traffic fatalities by about 7 percent, saving 300 lives a year.

Kolko did not observe drivers, so he cannot say what drivers did differently. But he suspects the very act of passing a hands-free law changes behavior. “Laws can serve as a form of public education,” he says, “and some people will go beyond what the law requires.”

In other words, hands-free calls may not be any safer. The law works because it makes drivers more aware that talking on a wireless phone is dangerous. That may reduce the overall number of calls people make while on the road.

The bottom line
No matter how many studies are done, people will drive and talk on the phone. Some do it to get more work done. Others find it makes their commute more enjoyable.

People who want to believe driving while on the phone isn’t dangerous tend to point to other possible distractions: changing the radio, grabbing a beverage or reaching for a CD under the seat. These are all momentary distractions. A phone conversation can go on for several minutes or more. During that time, whether you want to admit it or not, you are distracted and not paying full attention to the road. That means you are more likely to have an accident that hurts or kills you or someone else.

When road conditions require your full attention – cars are changing lanes suddenly, children are playing nearby, there’s some sort of traffic hazard – you should not be on the phone.

For the record, after doing all the research for this story, I have vowed to change my behavior. I will no longer use my car as a mobile office. I will not initiate calls, even with my headset on. If it’s a critical call, I will pull over to talk. If not, I will let it go to voicemail. I know I’ll slip sometimes, but I’m really going to try – because I know I’ll be a safer driver.

© 2008 MSNBC Interactive
URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25379642>1=43001/


Politicians - In Particular Dan Humiston

I had the opportunity to meet Dan Humiston this afternoon at the Brant Summer Festival. I have to say that I was extremely impressed by his attention to the topic of Traffic Safety!

The other gentlemen (a county legislature) who was also there, told me that I was not in his district so it had nothing to do with him! That's when I reminded that legislature that car crashes are not separated by districts or party affiliation - they encompass our entire society and I asked what his point of view on the topic was as well as what he was doing in his very own district to lower statistics. That's when he looked at me like I was nuts, handed me his business card and said, mail me a letter!!
That was a true sign of ignorance. 206 teenagers died in the state of NY alone last year. This topic does not care what affiliation you are and
I reminded him that, even though I reside in South Buffalo, I was born and raised in the town of Brant. Since he won't be getting my vote what does my opinion matter - right? WRONG! My entire family lives in the town of Brant and they do vote......he was one they have always voted for!

NOW, Dan Humiston approached my table and when I asked him his views on the topic, not only did he listen, HE GAVE ME HIS PHONE NUMBERS (yes, I do say numbers with an "s" which included his cell phone) and said, call me and we can discuss this further. He actually looked me in the eyes with interest and responded intelligently & respectfully. I was also impressed to have his 15 year old daughter listen to what I told her about teen driving in NYS. I only started talking to her re: the subject b/c she will be a novice driver very shortly! He attitude was a definite reflection of this families values.

I thank Dan Humiston for what he is doing, what he plans on doing and wish he and his family nothing but the best of luck.

As for me, I am a soldier in this fight against the exploding epidemic called car crashes. The politicians in this state have done nothing to make change or acknowledge we have to change things in order to prevent other families from burying their children. I have reached my plateau here in NYS and wonder - has the time come to move? Has the time come to move out of state like the rest of Buffalonians who want to make change and progress??????? Tim Russert, The Scinta's, Goo Goo Dolls, Chad Michael Murray, Christopher Markus, Patrick Gallo, Ani DiFranco, and for a list of others who have the heart & soul of Buffalo BUT had to leave in order to achieve greatness - click here

(A little about Brant, NY)
I was born and raised in the small Town of Brant, NY which is located in the southeastern part of the county and is known as one of the "Southtowns." It is south of Buffalo. . The town was named after the Mohawk leader Joseph Brant.
And has a population of 1,906 people!!



Deanna Russo of Crusade Against Impaired Driving and I, ventured out to the Iroquois Senior Prom @ the Hyatt Regency in downtown Buffalo. We had prom pledges in reminder to be safe and sober behind the wheel. The students were extremely receptive to the promise and signed on. It was an outstanding experience & in the end, the class of 2008 taught me a valuable lesson. THANK YOU!

Pictures and full story below.

At the Iroquois Prom, I ended my traffic safety program for the '08 school year with a Prom-Pledge to be safe & sober behind the wheel. Deanna Russo and I have been each pushing traffic safety (Deanna geared strictly towards drinking and driving) & I (traffic safety) were very excited with the way we ended prom season on such a positive note this year.

As you all know, I have dedicated my entire year to a topic close to my heart, "Safe Driver Awareness." This year was full of speaking engagements and in conclusion to each one, I hoped that I will have made a difference in at least one of the lives that I come across. Making a difference in at least one life may change many as it truly is a trickle down effect. If I can change one students mind about actions behind the wheel, his/her driving values will eventually rub off on his circle of friends.

Every speaking engagement is and has been a serious job & going to prom was the perfect ending and definitely put a FUN spin on it with the students.

I was blessed to become a very close part of the Iroquois High School family this year. I made approx. 15 trips to Iroquois and had many LONG meetings on what we can do to promote traffic safety. One idea that I suggested to Trooper DePlato and 4 other School Resource Officers in a meeting at the Elma station was joining the students at the senior prom in reminder of being safe & sober behind the wheel. They were all for it and became very excited!

So became the idea of signing prom pledges at the Iroquois Senior prom.

Deanna and I ventured out in what seemed like a hurricane! We went to prom armed with Prom Pledges (photo below) Pens donated from the NYS Police with a reminder that drinking under 21 is illegal, Deanna had C.A.I.D brochures and the finishing touch was the 8x10 photo of her hugging her sister who's life was tragically ended by a drunk driver at the age of 18. The students knew the story of Deanna and her sister as Deanna has now spoke at Iroquois High School's pre-prom assembly the past 2 years. Therefore, that photo was an instant reminder.

So many students stepped up and signed the promise. Deanna and I stayed a the prom-pledge table until dinner. We then ate a delicious meal, had an enormous piece of apple pie, then made our rounds to visit with the students.

Eventually, Deanna twisted my arm to get out on the dance floor with the students. It was rather funny as I felt kind of old!!! The only thing that got me off the dance floor was the fact that I got to crown the prom queen, princess and their court.

Then the emotional part set in. I had around 5 students approach me and ask why I did what I did for their school this year. They then told me that I was the coolest Mrs. NY that they have ever and will ever meet. They said that me being at their prom, me being serious about the pledges but then lowering my guard to get out on the dance floor to have fun with them was "awesome." They were like, wow, you are real person, how awesome....then they thanked me for all that I have done over the past few months for them!!

Their prom song came on - it was ironic b/c that was MY prom song 11 years ago. As I looked around, I saw the students doing as I did. They were dancing to the song in circles of friends. My friends and I did the same thing!!! I looked around and realized it was the end of a chapter and the start of something new for them. Something that I experienced 11 years ago. At that moment, the students taught me something......I need to slow down.....really, slow it down. It was 11 years ago that I graduated and now I stand looking at them from the outside and wonder.......how did I ever grow up so fast?

So, thank you Iroquois High School Class of 2008. You are an incredible group of students and I wish you nothing but the best of luck in all you do. You made a lasting impression on me and it will live with me in all I do.

Erica was the 1st to step up and sign. She started something wonderful that night!
A few gals signing our prom promise to be safe & sober
Deanna & I at our table. Raises a question! With the ease that new technology has given us, why do others find it to difficult to actually take a photo? Look at the quality of it above!
Deanna & I on the dance floor with "dumb & dumber."

Deanna & I in our "official" prom picture..LOL...


Tag your it! -I've been tagged by a sister queen

Tag your it! -I've been tagged by a sister queen!

Like Angela said, the last time I've been tagged was out on the playground! Well, this same game has made it's way to the internet.

I have no clue what my quirks are so I asked Doug. He says, Jen, when you love someone, you don't pay attention to their imperfections, their imperfections are their perfections....sounds like a pageant patty answer..LOL...no, that was definitely cute. Now I am left mind boggled as I try to answer this. I totally had OCD prior to my brain injuries and now I can't concentrate long enough on anything to still have OCD. I had to have the clothes hung by color, drawers were separated perfectly and so on..none of that anymore........

The Rules:
~Link the person(s) who tagged you
~Mention the rules on your blog
~Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks of yours
~Tag 6 following bloggers by linking them
~Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger’s blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged.

1.) When I wash the dishes I stand on my tippy toes!

2.) My 2nd toe is longer than the 1st and I have measured it LOL....no really, it's over 2 inches long. (OMG, I can't believe I am writing this!) In 6th grade my shoe size was 9 1/2. So if my toes were normal I would have smaller feet. I just measured my hubby's toe - his is one inch long. What is wrong with mine? When I was a kid, I was always thin and my legs ended with long, long feet. My friends used to say that all of my food went to my feet b/c I ate so much and all that grew were my feet.

3.) Sweet tooth! I can have the most amazing dinner but will need something sweet. Even if it is a tic tac. As a matter of fact, I just ate frosting out of the betty crocker container b/c we have nothing else sweet here at the house!

4.) I can not & will not fall asleep if I have dirty dishes. (Okay, wow, I guess I still have a bit of OCD in me.) I toss and turn, eventually getting out of bed to do them.

5.) When I am working on a project and I am in full concentration, I bite my lower lip, squint and my head is cocked towards the left shoulder.

6.) Wow, this is something that I definitely hate! I have been overwhelmed by the demand of my appearances this year and with it comes the LACK of time! I don't have time for anything, phew. If a friend e-mails me, messages me or sends me a facebook message, I don't respond if I can't send a full blown response, then a month later I am still sitting on that message! EEKK. I can not get myself to send a "quick" response. weird.



Power of Positive

Words that I LIVE by:

Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become words

Keep your words positive because your words become your actions

Keep your actions positive because your actions become your habits

Guard your habits & keep them positive because your habits become your values

Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny!

~Mahatma Gandhi


I remember the day that my mother gave me this poem and I thank her for it. Never did I drink as a teenager OR mix the two (drinking & driving). I remember one snowy night, I was 17 and just around the corner at a friends house. Mom had dropped me off. I didn't have my own means of transportation and when the time came to go home, I remembered my promise to my mom. Never to drive drunk OR drive with someone who had been drinking. I was NOT drinking but everyone else had been. I was so scared to tell my mom but had no choice considering I wanted to get home in one piece. I called my mom and she was there in a heart beat. In the middle of a Buffalo, NY snow storm, you drove EVERYONE home.
Thank you mom and I love you.
~ Your "Jenna Marie".....

Went to a party Mom

I went to a party, And remembered what you said.

You told me not to drink, Mom, so I had a sprite instead.

I felt proud of myself, The way you said I would, that I didn't drink and drive, though some friends said I should.

I made a healthy choice, And your advice to me was right.

The party finally ended, and the kids drove out of sight.

I got into my car, Sure to get home in one piece.

I never knew what was coming, Mom, something I expected least.

Now I'm lying on the pavement, And I hear the policeman say, the kid that caused this wreck was drunk ,Mom, his voice seems far away.

My own blood's all around me, As I try hard not to cry.

I can hear the paramedic say, this girl is going to die.

I'm sure the guy had no idea, While he was flying high.

Because he chose to drink and drive, now I would have to die.

So why do people do it, Mom Knowing that it ruins lives?

And now the pain is cutting me, like a hundred stabbing knives.

Tell sister not to be afraid, Mom tell daddy to be brave.

And when I go to heaven, put Mommy's Girl' on my grave.

Someone should have taught him, That it's wrong to drink and drive.

Maybe if his parents had, I'd still be alive.

My breath is getting shorter, Mom I'm getting really scared.

These are my final moments, and I'm so unprepared.

I wish that you could hold me Mom, As I lie here and die.

I wish that I could say, 'I love you, Mom!'

So I love you and good-bye.


Elma Primary - Seat Belt Safety Day


On May 1st, 2008, Sergeant Wilkinson and I were guests at Elma Primary. It was such a wonderful experience to learn that it is never too early to educate about traffic safety and the importance of seat belts. The students had so many questions regarding my very own personal car crashes and a few of them told me that some times mommy & daddy forget to wear their seat belts.....(from the mouths of babes, right)

Thank you to Sergeant Wilkinson for making sure all of the 2nd grade princesses received crowns and for also making sure our junior trooper boys got their badges and pencils. The students of course loved the Blow Pops!

We brought the students seat belt activity sheets. The students colored them and were generous enough to give them back to me. They even took the time to write a personal message on them to me!

After explaining my crashes and how important traffic safety is, we passed the crown around! The girls AND the boys loved trying it on.

Lastly, we handed out the BUNY(Buckle Up New York) teddy bears, as a forever reminder to them about how important a seat belt is.

Before we left, the students sang such a beautiful song - The fifty Nifty United States.

Today, I received the most wonderful surprise! The above letter from the school and signed by the students!!
This is the teddy bear we handed out to them. Isn't it so cute?




Hamburg’s West-Herr Ford Raises Funds for Hamburg High

Hamburg, NY, June 5, 2008 – In a creative twist on traditional fundraising, West-Herr Ford of Hamburg raised money for Hamburg High School on Saturday by making a $20 donation for every test drive of a new Ford vehicle. The event, titled “Cruise 4 UR School,” was held on Saturday, May 31, and featured parents and other members of the community test driving an assortment of 2008 Ford cars and trucks. In an effort to promote responsibility and safety, Ford and West-Herr Ford donated $20 for every individual who test drove a Ford to the Hamburg High School’s 2009 after Prom Celebration.

“We’re a part of this community, and we take that responsibility very seriously,” said Steve Plesac of West-Herr Ford. “These funds will help create an important program that will keep our high school students safe on what can be a very dangerous night.”

Also attending the event as a test driver and a surprise guest was Mrs. New York, Jennifer Stehlar, who travels the state encouraging young people to drive safely and responsibly, particularly after Proms. She said, “I commend Ford for taking this huge step towards protecting the youth in this community by raising funds to create a school sanctioned after Prom party. It’s a great and innovative way to promote responsibility and safety.”

By participating in this event, Hamburg High School has been entered into a sales competition. There will be an additional 1st, 2nd , and 3rd place donation* ($15,000, $10,000 and $5,000) made to those high schools that generate the most new Ford Division sales!

Across the country, hundreds of Ford dealers are partnering with local high schools to host Cruise 4 UR School events, just like they did here. Ford is contributing up to $6,000—the equivalent of 300 test drives—to every participating school, each of which can use the funds to support various programs and activities as they see fit. West-Herr Ford raised $2,400.


About Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles in 200 markets across six continents. With about 244,000 employees and about 90 plants worldwide, the company’s core and affiliated automotive brands include Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Volvo, Mazda, and until completion of their sale, Jaguar and Land Rover. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford’s products, please visit www.ford.com.

*Donation based on 120 sales track data post event. Winners will be selected a total of three times throughout the course of the program based on the designated time frame of their event (Nov./Dec. ’07, 1st Quarter ’08, 2nd Quarter ’08)


We are on the SAME TEAM!!

This is a blog that I posted back on 3-29-08:
I came to an an amazing realization yesterday. Each titleholder has their own platform. As a titleholder we invest so much of our heart and soul into these topics that we tend to not have the time to truly understand or appreciate our sister queens platforms.

I live and breath "safe driver awareness." In my first official meeting with Deanna Russo of Crusade Against Impaired Driving, she told me how her sisters death led to saving 10 other lives. You see Deanna's sister, Karen was killed by a drunk driver BUT Deanna explained that through organ and tissue donation they were able to save 10 lives. Karen's life was tragically taken but 10 other lives saved that night.

That's when I realized my true appreciation for Shannon and Jason Devine. I was always so proud of them and the hard work they did/do to truly save lives but when you here that one persons body was able to save 10 lives you realize the significance of Jason and Shannon's Journey. I am so honored to be Shannon's first runner up and I am so proud of what she and her family have done to save lives.

I can't believe how our paths at one point in time will cross. I was in a meeting about a partnership with Crusade Against Impaired Driving. That's when I truly realized we are all on the same mission: TO SAVE LIVES!

Now I have to wonder how in the world VOYBOARDS and the vicious lies/rumors/hurt that they start can even be an issue. How & why do grown woman do this? The reality is, we are all on the same mission....to save lives. We should be uniting as one - instead some woman chose to attack others. It just does NOT make sense to me.......hhhhmmmm...

So many grown women are out living dreams and saving lives.
I remember being a teenage titleholder and not having 1/2 of the wisdom I have gained as a grown woman.
As women, we have experienced so much in life, developed who we are, what we want and have beautiful families.
We develop an undying passion for a topic that has impacted us personally, we go out & educate society on it and usually those topics are ultimately saving lives in the end.

So, how, as adults, do we NOT unite together in our missions. We are ALL on the same team. Team Saving Lives.

Therefore, why? Why all of the teenage high school (as original poster put it) hurtful, bashing, NEGATIVITY?
A young girl (MEGAN )has killed her self over just this same topic. It was all over the news. How are we as mothers, aunts, sisters, daughters and friends not using that as a wake up call?

We are the ADULTS who set the example for our future leaders. Look at our voyboards, a teenage titleholder will read these thinking that if grown women do this THEN it’s ok for her to do it as well and we just may end up with another lost life, like Megan. It was an ADULT FEMALE doing the dirty work via annony. posts which ultimately led to a Megan‘s suicide.

In the end, voyboards should NOT be a place to viciously attack others. This should be a great way for women across the country to meet up and share their accomplishments and in the end, we should be applauding each other. Applaud each other in the ways our “team“, pageant sisterhood is out saving lives…who knows, her very topic will possibly impact your very own family someday and she may help you through it.

I’d love to see my sister queens, posting what they have done. We are all so busy that we don’t have the time to call and inform each other of what we have done. We are all scattered across the country therefore, it won’t be hitting my local news. BUT around 90% of them can’t post here because they will be bashed for doing good. It will be a positive turned negative leading to the ever typical “it’s self promotion……”

If you are reading this post b/c you follow my mission of traffic safety awareness, then you are out of the loop.
There are message boards called "Voyboards" in pageant land. The URL looks like- www.voy.com/....../
On them, you can post whatever you want, whenever you want ANONYMOUSLY!
The written messages are horrible, cruel and heartless. Some of the Law enforcement officials that I work with were SHOCKED that this behavior by grown, married women can even exist!

What is going on in America today?
It is cruel and unnecessary!

God Bless and keep on saving lives!


Parade of Circles-South Buffalo

Today was the "South Buffalo Parade of Circles" and it was such a wonderful time as always!!!

Although my passion is traffic safety, it was refreshing to get out and do something like this.

I LOVE my community and am proud to say that I am a South Buffalo resident. People here are irreplaceable!

I rode atop my Ford Edge from DeLacy Ford in the parade.

Afterwards, we joined everyone in Heacock Park for a celebration & hotdogs of course.

I autographed a hairbrush, a babies blankie AND I had fun with the little girls who asked me to sign their foreheads with my sharpie..LOL.... As you will see, I said no BUT I did sign the palm of their hands with the permanent marker. Everyone loved the autograph cards as well.

It was a balmy 50, cloudy overcast, windy and sprinkling day. We tried to stay in the Edge as long as possible which really didn't allow for too many pictures prior to the start of the parade. I MEAN IT WAS FREEZING!!!!!!!

Thanks again to my wonderful and amazing South Buffalo Community for accepting me with open arms. You are all wonderful. Thanks especially to the SB Chamber of commerce, the Goin'South guys and South Buffalo Alive.