Posted: March 26, 2003


By Celia Cohen

Grapevine Political Writer

Cell phones are not the only way drivers get distracted on Delaware's roads.

Members of the state House of Representatives are twittering like teen-agers over some statistics in a report, compiled by the state police, about driver distractions that led to accidents from October to mid-March.

Hand-held cell phones accounted for four crashes. Sexual activity caused three.

The report wasn't specific about the type of sexual activity, but it would appear that cell phones were not involved, or presumably there would have been some sort of cross-referencing.

The information was collected because of a bill introduced last year by Rep. Joseph E. Miro, a Pike Creek Valley Republican, to ban hand-held cell phones while driving. It aroused legislators, who wondered how much of a danger cell phones really were on the road, so they voted to study driver distractions before considering a new law.

The state police report found a variety of reasons for the accidents, like children and pets, tuning the radio and reading.

Still, lawmakers were not about to be distracted by those distractions, as shown by a conversation overheard Tuesday in the back of the House chamber. It involved Republican Reps. Deborah D. Hudson, Donna D. Stone and Robert J. Valihura Jr., although the nature of it left Valihura speechless.

Hudson: "It's interesting the data on cell phones and sexual activity went hand in hand."

Stone: "I don't think it goes hand in hand."

Hudson: "I'm wondering if Rep. Miro wants to ban other distractions."

Stone: "It's not a bill about cell phones you need at all."

Miro is getting the message. The state police report was not just a quickie study. It required 50 troopers to collect data for almost six months on 1,300 accidents, showing that only 14 of them involved driver distraction of any kind. He says he is thinking about scaling back his proposal from a ban on driving with hand-held cell phones to fines for drivers involved in accidents because of cell phones.

And no, in case anyone was wondering, Miro says he won't be introducing any legislation regarding drivers' sexual activity.

Another legislator suggested why. "It might be one of us," the lawmaker said.