Thursday, September 22, 2005

Storm donations found at official's home

Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. - Police found cases of food, clothing and tools intended for hurricane victims at the home of the chief administrative officer for a New Orleans suburb, authorities said Wednesday.

Officers searched Cedric Floyd's home because of complaints that city workers were helping themselves to donations for hurricane victims. Floyd, who runs the day-to-day operations in the suburb of Kenner, was in charge of distributing the goods.

Police plan to seek a charge of committing an illegal act as a public official against Floyd, and more charges against other city workers are possible, police Capt. Steve Caraway said.

The donations filled a large pickup truck four times. "It was an awful lot of stuff," Caraway said.

The donated materials must be processed as evidence but eventually will be distributed to victims. "We have lots of families that are begging for these supplies," said Attorney General Charles Foti, whose office assisted in the investigation.

Attempts to reach Floyd were unsuccessful at home numbers listed under his name in Kenner. His office number went unanswered after business hours.

Philip Ramon, chief of staff to Kenner Mayor Philip Capitano, has said city officials were investigating the alleged pilfering but added that many employees were themselves hurricane victims.

Some call for banning drivers from cell phones


By Chad Lawhorn
Lawrence Journal World

Rebecca Osladil, who works for a local radio station, spends a lot of time on her cell phone calling customers. Traffic safety commissioners will discuss outlawing cell phone usage while driving within Lawrence city limits.
Driver’s education class didn’t teach Bob Lewis how to deal with this.

“I think the only time I have ever had a real close call in a car, it has been when some other motorist is paying more attention to their cell phone than to their driving,” said Lewis, a Lawrence resident and retired Kansas University employee. “I felt like I had to do something partially in self-defense.”

What Lewis did was complain to the city’s Traffic Safety Commission. As a result, traffic safety commissioners will soon discuss a proposal to ban all drivers in the city limits from using a cell phone.

Lewis didn’t propose a specific ordinance, but said he would like for a ban to also prohibit the use of hands-free or speaker cell phones because research shows they’re just as dangerous.
“Driving really demands your total attention,” Lewis said. “Your mind can’t really be on another subject.”
Several other communities and states agree. In 2001, New York banned cell phone use by drivers statewide. Since then, 10 other states and the District of Columbia have implemented some sort of cell phone ban — some prohibiting their use by all drivers and others putting phones off-limits only to novice drivers.
This week, the National Transportation Safety Board urged all states to ban novice drivers from using wireless phones.
David Strayer — a psychology professor at the University of Utah who has conducted more than 20 research studies on cell phones and driver safety — said the science behind the bans was solid.
“The risks are quite substantial,” Strayer said, noting that many studies have found the risk of an accident increases fourfold when a driver is on a cell phone.
Sgt. Dan Ward, a spokesman with the Lawrence Police Department, doesn’t have any formal study to fall back on, but he’s pretty sure cell phone usage does cause a problem on Lawrence streets.
“I know there are a lot of drivers with a cell phone up to their ear,” Ward said. “Any time you are trying to do something other than paying full attention to driving, it can cause an accident.”
Several traffic safety commissioners on Wednesday said they wanted to learn more about the issue but worried the ordinance could be difficult to enforce.
“There’s no reason to do it if you can’t enforce it,” said Carol Bowen, a traffic safety commissioner. “If you can’t enforce it, that would just create frustration.”
Ward said enforcement would rely on police officers observing a driver using a cell phone, which he said was not much different from viewing a person running a traffic light.
A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that in the months after the implementation of the New York ban, the rate of drivers talking on cell phones fell from 2.3 percent to 1.1 percent. But one year later, the rate had risen back to 2.1 percent.
Danny Drungilas, another traffic safety commissioner, said the city might be able to consider other options. He suggested increasing the fines for any driver who was using a cell phone during an accident.
“Whatever we would do probably would be pretty controversial,” Drungilas said.
Driver reaction was mixed.
“I guess I would kind of agree with it because I know that when I do it, I’m a bit distracted,” said Jeff Hansen, a Topeka resident who was in downtown. “If it would stop someone from running into me, I would be for it.”
The city of Lawrence is considering a law prohibiting cell phone use while driving. What do you think about the law?
We need the law because talking on a cell phone while driving is dangerous.
We don't need such a law. It's just another example of government telling us what we can and cannot do.
Hands-free units and speaker phones should be allowed.
I don't care.
Heather Lancaster, a Lawrence resident, said she thought any future ban wouldn’t be taken very seriously by residents.
Beverly Purcell, an agent with Lawrence-based Allen and Purcell Insurance, said the insurance industry was beginning to frown on cell phone usage by drivers. Strayer, the researcher, said he believed that cell phone usage may some day become a factor in how companies set insurance rates.
“I don’t think a cell phone creates any more of a problem than a billboard that is tough to read or a road sign that is not real well placed,” Purcell said. “All of them require you to take your eyes off the road and divert your attention. I think these bans are a bit of a fad and people are just picking on cell phones.”