Columbus banned texting while driving in May 2010.

Columbus banned texting while driving in May 2010.

Now, the Precinct 1 liaison officer believes it's time to take things a step further, and prohibit drivers younger than 18 from talking on their cell phones while behind the wheel.

When Scott Clinger broached the subject at last week's monthly meeting of Northland area Block Watch captains, one of those present suggested an even higher age limit for new legislation banning using a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle - "like maybe 40."

"It's in the thought stage," Clinger said, adding that he had met with the legislative assistant to Columbus City Council member Michelle M. Mills, chairwoman of the public safety and judiciary committee.

It's beyond that stage in several states, and the Federal Transportation Safety Board voted in September 2005 to add a ban on novice motorists using cell phones to the annual "Most Wanted Safety Recommendations to States."

"Learning how to drive while distracted is definitely a recipe for disaster," the board's then-acting chairman, Mark Rosenker, told the Associated Press.

At that time, according to the wire service story, 11 states and the District of Columbia had placed restrictions cell phone use among novice drivers, and some banned handheld cell phones completely. The states with restrictions on wireless communication while driving were Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee and Texas.

Since that time, California has joined the list. More recently, an effort to prohibit teen cell phone use failed in Utah after it was approved by the state senate.

Keeping young drivers focused on learning how to drive is what prompted him to raise the idea with city council, Clinger told the Block Watch representatives. Driving distracted causes accidents, he said.

"You know how adults do with a phone; it's bad enough," Clinger said.

Paving the Way program coordinator J.P. Blackwood echoed Clinger's sentiments.

He said people who argue that speaking on a cell phone is no different from talking to a passenger are simply wrong. A passenger in a car, Blackwood said, is also a witness to the driving conditions and can be another set of eyes to help the driver.

That's hardly the case with a cell phone conversation, which he said tends to draw both participants "into their own world."