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Updated 9:00 AM June 21, 2006




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U-M survey shows support for ban on cell phone use in cars
Hear News Service podcast "Public attitudes toward cell phones">

Most people would support a state law that makes it illegal to use a cell phone while driving, a new University study indicates.

Two-thirds of the respondents (65 percent) said state governments should pass laws banning driving and cell phone use, and 29 percent said they did not want such a law. In addition, 88 percent said that a police officer should write on an incident report if a driver used a cell phone when an accident occurred.

The findings, released this month, are in a report that studied public attitudes toward cell phones and other information technology devices in the United States. Survey interviews were conducted by telephone March 3-10, 2005, among a sample of 849 American adults. The survey showed that 69 percent own a cell phone.

Sixty percent of respondents preferred to maintain a ban on cell phone use in airplanes, while 26 percent supported lifting the ban. Cell phone owners and non-owners were equally likely to say they preferred to keep the ban. The study also noted that the number of technologies owned did not affect attitude toward this regulation.

"The concern about cell phone use in planes may relate to the fact that it is an enclosed space and people can't walk away from loud conversations in a way they can on land," says the study's author Michael Traugott, a professor in the Department of Communications Studies and senior research professor at the Institute for Social Research.

While 60 percent said public use of cell phones disturbed or irritated them, this didn't translate into a sentiment toward passing laws to prohibit the practice in places such as restaurants, movies or museums. In fact, only 43 percent said there should be a law that prohibits talking on a cell phone in public places, while 52 percent did not agree.

"The support for the use of cell phones in public places, despite the irritation, comes primarily from cell phone owners," Traugott said. "They seem reluctant to impose restraints on their own behavior."

The survey was funded by a grant from the Constance F. and Arnold C. Pohs Endowment at U-M.

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