Austria imposes cell phone crackdown

21 Apr 2008
Daily News

(Associated Press via NewsEdge) Taking a cue from France's national railway, which offers phone-free 'zen zones' on high-speed trains, Austria's second-largest city this week began ordering public transit commuters to keep their phones on silent mode.

The crackdown in the southern city of Graz has triggered a noisy debate between advocates of free speech and people who say they're simply fed up with having to listen to annoying ring tones and intrusive cell phone chatter.

'I know I insulted the cell phone goddess a little,' Graz Mayor Siegfried Nagl said.

'But people need to know they don't have the right to be on the telephone permanently and constantly,' he told Austrian television. 'It's just not healthy to never be able to get any peace and quiet.'

Graz's response to the proliferation of cell phones reflects a growing backlash against their abuse around the world, where mobiles and other portable communication devices outnumber people by a margin of 2-to-1 in many countries. This week, US Rep. Peter DeFazio filed pre-emptive legislation aimed at ensuring Americans won't be subjected to cell phone chitchat on airliners.

DeFazio introduced his bill after the European Union scrapped a longtime ban on the use of cell phones on flights and Air France-KLM launched trial on-board cellular service.

Last month, police in New Jersey started slapping drivers with a $100 fine for talking on a hand-held device or sending a text message. Across the US this year, at least 21 state legislatures are considering some kind of ban on texting while driving.

© 2008 The Associated Press

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