Cell phone restrictions

All but a few remaining Neanderthals would concede that cell phones have evolved from being a conveni-ence to being a necessity in our lives. But we still think they're unnecessary when driving a car -- especially if you are an easily distracted teen driver.

Several states, in fact, have passed cell phone restrictions aimed at inexperienced teenage drivers. South Carolina toyed briefly with the idea this session, but the bill went nowhere.

These bills are logical and well intentioned. Unfortunately, they apparently are not regularly obeyed.

According to an insurance industry study released earlier this month, motorists younger than 18, who are targeted by these laws, routinely ignore it. Researchers who watch high school students leaving school, found that teen drivers used their cell phones at about the same rate both before and after the law took effect.

Researchers also compared teen driving habits in North Carolina, which restricts cell phone use by drivers younger than 18, and South Carolina, which doesn't. The study found that driving habits among teens was about the same in both states.

Oddly, a survey indicates that about three-quarters of teens support the cell phone restrictions. But they also felt that law enforcement is rare or nonexistent.

This would seem to indicate that teens realize that trying to drive and talk on the cell phone is dangerous, especially for new drivers. But they may be waiting for cops to make them stop.

We think driving and using a cell phone can be a dangerous distraction for drivers no matter what their age. Perhaps cell-phone safety rules have to work their way into the culture, like using seat belts, before they are commonly accepted.

For now, we think states -- including South Carolina -- should restrict cell phone use among novice drivers and enforce them. A few more citations as teens head home from school might serve to enlighten them.