Poll: Ban Cell Phones While Driving

A new survey finds two-thirds of Americans would support a law banning cell phone use while driving.

Fewer than half, however, wish to make them illegal in restaurants and movie theaters.

The poll of 849 adults, of which 69 percent owned cell phones, was conducted in March and announced this week. While 29 percent of respondents said they did not want such a law, 65 percent said states should ban drivers from talking on cell phones.

Previous studies have suggested cell phones cause accidents that kill thousands of people every year and create traffic jams. Even hands-free phone use has been shown to slow driver reaction times. Study leader Michael Traugott of the University of Michigan said the poll results show that people understand these risks.

"I think this is a reflection of inherent concerns about driving safety, as well as the concern about accidents due to cell phone use," Traugott told LiveScience.

Some 60 percent of those surveyed said they would maintain the ban on cell phone use in airplanes. Whether they owned a cell phone or not, the respondents were equally likely to support that ban.

"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," Traugott said.

Cell phone use in public places was said to have irritated 60 percent of the respondents, but only 43 percent support banning cell phone conversations in places such as restaurants, theaters or museums.

"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 poll also showed that younger adults were more likely to support the use of cell phones in public places and while driving.

A separate survey released in April by the Pew Research Center found that 28 percent of cell phone owners admit to sometimes not driving as safely as they should while using mobile devices. In that poll, 81 percent of those who own cell phones said they were irritated at least occasionally by loud and annoying cell users in public places.