Shut Up or Park

Want to escape cell-phone-wielding drivers? Move to Ohio.

It would seem that the cell-phone companies don't appreciate his work. "Oh, God, they're having nightmares!" he says.

Well, not exactly. A spokesman from the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, a national organization of cell-phone companies, carefully explains that he knows of no current or pending legislation that bans or restricts the use of cell phones.

The standard service-provider response to legislation is, why? People should just be cognizant of others. Cell-phone companies already do enough, they feel. They provide free safety tips, and offer discounts on hands-free cell-phone equipment. The Bay Area's largest wireless carrier, Cellular One, will even pre-program a customer's phone right there in the store.

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"It's really sort of up to every driver to be responsible," says Cellular One spokesperson Erin Eggleton. "It's just like doing anything else while you drive. Whether you're listening to the radio or eating a hamburger."

Drivers in at least one city will be more responsible starting Sept. 1. That's the date Brooklyn, Ohio, will begin imposing a $100 fine for using a cell phone behind the wheel. (Mayor Coyne says he'd rather see a smaller amount to start with, like "two or three dollars").

"We don't say, 'Don't use 'em,''' says the mayor. "If it's an emergency, make sure it's an emergency. But if you've got the gift of gab, pull off to the side of the road."

Coyne is convinced that if everyone looks logically at his law, it could be a national trend. But like all driving infractions, ignorance of the law is still no excuse. Even in Brooklyn, Ohio.

"As you come off the freeway -- we got two freeway exits here -- it's got a nice bright sign there. 'Cell-phone users, park. It's the law.

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