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Curious About Cell Phone Driving Safety In Tunnels

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Curious About Cell Phone Driving Safety In TunnelsWBZ

I’m curious why they allowed the wireless phone companies to put antennas in the Big Dig tunnels when we’re not supposed to use our cell phones when driving? Kevin from Groton wrote on WBZ’s Curiosity Web site.

So, WBZ looked into the matter and found that tunnel operators wouldn’t talk “on-camera.” We also learned that the answer to the question leads to a bigger question: Do you think it’s safe to talk on the phone when you’re driving?

While many drivers said they don’t think it’s safe, in Massachusetts it’s perfectly legal, and recently cell phone companies wired the Big Dig tunnels so we can talk in there, too.

“In the tunnels especially, I think it’s definitely dangerous,” one driver told WBZ.

“Cell phone use and driving don’t mix,” said Sean Kane, a motor vehicle safety expert who runs Safety Research and Strategies in Rehoboth. “You’ve got merges, you’ve got changes in lighting, you’ve got all these things that are happening.”

Kane continues, “When you get to a tunnel and you have cell phone usage on top of all these other distractions. That’s probably not a good thing.”

So what gives? Why bother wiring the O’Neill Tunnel and the I-90 connector? Doesn’t that just make two more areas to worry about?

The Turnpike Authority runs the tunnels but refused to give an interview.

They e-mailed us a statement instead saying, “Drivers in the tunnels can now use their cell phones to report safety or medical emergencies.” (full text below)

In a phone conversation with the Pike we were told it’s also a convenience issue because people didn’t like the dead zones.

“This goes well beyond the tunnel issue,” Kane said.

Some studies show there are more crashes and deaths because of cell phone use no matter where you’re driving.

“We have to eliminate that and the only way you eliminate that is to eliminate the use of cell phones in cars,” Kane said.

That’s just what the National Safety Council called for this week — a total ban on cell phone use while driving.

So why wouldn’t Turnpike Authority officials talk to “on camera”? They said it was a scheduling problem, and no one was available during a busy week. I guess they have their hands full trying to make ends meet. Their statement does say that cell phones should only be used when you’re driving to report an emergency.

Full text of Turnpike Authority statement:

“Backed by the recent findings of the National Safety Council, the Turnpike Authority and the State Police believe strongly that speaking or texting on cell phones while driving causes a serious threat to the safety of the driver and occupants of surrounding vehicles. The only time a driver should use a cell phone, whether in a tunnel or on any other roadway, is when it is necessary to report a safety or medical emergency, and then only if there are no other passengers in the vehicle who can more safely place the call.

The recent installation of cell phone service in the O’Neill and I-90 connector was meant to fill two major voids in coverage in metro Boston.

Drivers in the tunnels can now use their cell phones to report safety or medical emergencies. But when it comes to normal conversations, we strongly encourage all drivers to leave their cell phones alone while navigating the tunnels.”

© MMX, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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