While it is illegal to use a handheld cellular phone while driving in some states, and experts agree that holding a cellular conversation while driving is a contributing cause to driver distraction, it seems that some states may have found a way to take advantage of the popularity of road-bound cellular phones.
Maryland and Virginia, along with other states are testing a new technology that allows traffic patterns to be mapped on roadways by monitoring several hundred thousand cellular phone signals at the same time. So long as the cellular phones are turned on–they need not be in use–the system can track the cars’ locations.
State transportation and law enforcement agencies say that the cellular tracking systems monitor clusters of phones, rather than individual users; however, privacy advocates aren’t so sure that the system won’t be used for purposes other than those currently promised by the state agencies. The systems are so sensitive that they can determine whether cellular phones are moving along at the pace of a pedestrian’s walk or at highway speed.
Maryland will begin testing the cellular tracking system near Baltimore, and Virginia will test on the Norfolk beltway.
Not all cellular telecommunication providers are willing to connect their networks to cellular tracking system. Cingular, for one, currently plans to decline Maryland’s future program; however, Verizon Wireless will continue to serve the government’s requests.
For once, I’m glad to have Cingular cellular service. I’m not comfortable being tracked by the phone that I hang on my belt. I don’t usually exceed the speed limit, but sometimes I do get caught in the flow of traffic around the Baltimore Beltway. I’d hate to get a ticket just because my cell phone was doing 60 in a 55 MPH zone.
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Tracking Phones for Traffic Reports