First A&T cell tower: approved

Detail from an AT&T mockup, based on a balloon test, of what the planned Boston tower would look like from 400 feet away.

In the end, practicality beat out romance.

Facing an audience of more than three dozen Monday night — most of whom applauded the 15 citizens who spoke out against the first plan to build a cellular monopole in the county in a decade — the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors shook its collective head, and then voted 4-1 to approve AT&T’s proposal.

The plan to build a 199-foot monopole near Round Hill Road off U.S. 522 in Boston is the first of five proposed installations by AT&T — including two other new, 190-foot-plus poles just west of Sperryville and at the high school, and two proposals to extend existing Sprint towers at Ben Venue and Amissville to almost the same height.

The Sperryville and high school proposals come Jan. 19 before the planning commission — meeting at the high school auditorium, not the courthouse — which will, as with the first project, pass its recommendation on to the supervisors. The planning commission voted unanimously last month to recommend the supervisors approve the Boston tower.

Piedmont District Supervisor Mike Biniek, who cast the sole vote against AT&T’s plan Monday, had earlier in the meeting expressed mixed feelings about the project.

“This coverage map shows a lot of white areas [no signal],” Biniek said to AT&T site acquisition specialist Ed Donohue before the public hearing began. “All my neighbors are very disappointed being in the middle of this big dead zone — and that includes my wife.”

To Biniek’s question on whether AT&T had plans to build towers down the F.T. Valley Road corridor, or in northern Madison County, Donohue said he didn’t know, but he would find out. Donohue has said that if all five projects are approved, AT&T would provide “robust” service to 45 percent of county’s residents. (Since there are only about 7,000 of those, it’s no surprise that AT&T’s plan would provide cell signals to a much higher percentage of those passing through the county on U.S. routes 211 and 522.)

Later, Biniek said, though he knew the vote before the board was specifically on the Boston tower, he didn’t think AT&T’s overall plan was “comprehensive” enough, and couldn’t support it.

“Also, I think 199 feet is not always an appropriate height for our viewshed,” he said.

The words “viewshed” and “comprehensive” — as in the county’s Comprehensive Plan, the blueprint for the zoning ordinance under which AT&T’s applications are being considered — came up often in the under-three-minute speeches given by others who stood up during the public hearing.

Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection (RLEP) president Rick Kohler addressed the supervisors at their 2 p.m. meeting to repeat what he’d said to the planning commission last month — that the Boston tower’s height and placement violated the comprehensive plan’s intent to protect the county’s scenic and historical assets.

At the supervisors’ 7 p.m. public hearing, Piedmont Environmental Council representative Don Loock again urged the county to consider asking for more towers at lower heights, and he and former RLEP president Monica Worth both urged the supervisors to negotiate with AT&T “rather than just accept their plan.”

“We represent a hole in a major metropolitan area’s coverage map,” Worth said. “I find it hard to believe a company like AT&T would engage a lawyer and an engineer and others on this project if there was no Plan B.”

Flint Hill resident Ron Maxwell stressed the safety risks associated with cell phone usage — and especially texting — while driving, adding: “We all have cell phones, and we use them everywhere else. Rappahannock is the one safe place we can come home to. I don’t think the board would vote to increase drunk driving deaths by 20 to 30 percent.”

Kay Wilson stood to tell a story about out-of-state visitors who showed up in “shiny black cars and silk suits” in Little Washington for a friend’s concert and then spoke to each other loudly in the Theatre audience to confirm to each other that their cell phones didn’t work.

“And someone local, in the back of the theatre, said, ‘That’s because you’re in Rappahannock County. Cell phones don’t work here. And that’s the way we like it.’ ”

That got the meeting’s loudest round of applause.

Supervisors Chris Parrish and Ron Frazier, who moved and seconded the resolution to approve AT&T’s plan, each mentioned that they had heard from many of their district’s constituents who urged them to approve AT&T’s plans. Frazier added: “Although I don’t see many of them here tonight . . .”

Frazier is the supervisors’ representative to the planning commission, whose two meetings on the first AT&T cell proposal were attended by a public contingent about evenly divided between support and opposition.

One resident told the supervisors “I want us to shake our heads a bit about the Wal-Marting of America.” Another, builder Scott McBride, said “I didn’t grow up in Rappahannock County, I came here — from a very ugly place.

“This [application by AT&T] is the thin edge of the wedge,” he said. “I say if a finger can be put in the dike anywhere, put it in the dike here.”

Bill Fletcher of Sperryville also cited the dangers of texting and calling while driving, and warned the supervisors that, as the value of agricultural land decreases, “the only real value of this land in Rappahannock is its scenic value, and if you destroy that viewshed, you’re potentially destroying millions of dollars of value, considering what people are paying to move here nowadays.”

Harold Beebout of Sperryville spoke, as several did, on the opposite danger — of not being able to make emergency calls.

Washington resident Demaris Miller mentioned the safety issues as well, and urged the supervisors to accept AT&T’s plan. “I hope we will not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good,” she said.

“Also, it’s entirely possible that 20 years from now, we won’t even need these poles — so if the technology changes, these poles would disappear.”

After the public hearing, both McCarthy and county attorney Peter Luke pointed out that federal laws prevent any legislative body from “outlawing cell service because we think people will be hurt if they make cell calls while driving — or because we just don’t like cell phones.”

“We don’t need to focus the debate on, ‘No cell towers in Rappahannock County,’” Luke said. “Federal law says you cannot ban them. You don’t want to go there.”

Luke said the supervisors were likewise unable to force cell carriers to build additional infrastructure — in response to Biniek’s question whether the supervisors could approve the Boston tower contingent on AT&T adding more service in the southwesternmost part of the county.

The supervisors, with Bryant Lee and chairman Roger Welch adding their votes, approved the Boston tower on the conditions that AT&T add a fire-and-rescue antenna to it, if needed; that if future laws require towers under 200 feet to have warning lights, AT&T would lower the tower height or make whatever changes would result in no lights; and that the monopole be painted to blend in with the forest cover and/or sky.

“Frankly,” Welch said just before the vote, “I don’t think we can stick our heads in the sand any longer . . .

“No one wants to ruin the viewshed. I was born and raised here, too, and no one appreciates the viewshed here more than I do.”

“Ten years ago,” said Parrish, “I was sitting where you’re sitting now, and pretty much saying the same things you all are saying tonight.

“We have cell service in the county, thanks to Sprint,” he said. “But in part because of changes requested of them, my part of the county got neglected. I have received numerous calls in support of this tower.”

Roger Piantadosi
About Roger Piantadosi 539 Articles

Former Rappahannock News editor Roger Piantadosi is a writer and works on web and video projects for Rappahannock Media and his own Synergist Media company. Before joining the News in 2009, he was a staff writer, editor and web developer at The Washington Post for almost 30 years.

18 Comments

  1. Especially for Sam who wants to blame the copper for the quality of his POTS. Actually, Sam, I believe that the federal communications requirement is to maintain a minimum, of 2400 baud (might be 1200) reliability for POTS. That level is more than adequate for reasonable and reliable voice communication (albeit it is woefully inadequate for dialup internet speed) and if you aren’t getting it your State Corporation Commission and Federal Communication people have a say. Service at my place was a problem until we “climbed the ladder”… and actually it is now less than it was when first rehabbed… Used to get 28800 reliably but 24600 (bit not baud) is the norm now…. Really it isn’t the copper that is the throttle point but the quality and capability of the old switching equipment at the repeater locations…. of course the quality of individual splicing at each tap makes a difference too…

  2. Hey Sam,

    Oh, that’s original: the old “vocal minority” argument. I don’t know who is counting heads out there among the 7,000 or so citizens of Rappahannock. But I know a whole lot of them, and the jury is very divided on this one. Now, I don’t know anyone who has been more “vocal” on this forum than you and I, and I suggest that you don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

    Only one tower has been approved, and that one is practically in Culpeper County.

    The Planning Commission and the Supervisors must judge each of these proposals on its merits, and they must consider the feelings of the citizens most affected by each tower.

    They can approve, disapprove, or make recommendations on adjustments and alterations.

    That is the way this process works. If you are certain “the fix is already in,” well, that could save the county a whole lot of time and trouble having public meetings, you know.

    Forgive me, but I can’t help but think that you work for AT&T. Say it ain’t so, Sam. And while you are at it, tell us how many towers it will take to provide the coverage we already have with our landlines.

    Ben Jones

  3. Ben, like it or not, cell towers are coming to Rappahannock. A vocal minority opposes them but the majority who want more towers constructed has been in contact with the planning commission and supervisors to let their support be known.

  4. Well Sam,

    I’m sorry you are so upset with your local phone service. It ain’t perfect, but it is far preferable to the fantasy that erecting these disgraceful monstrosities in pristine Rappahannock will provide better coverage than we have currently. That is a cynical canard and it is one which will forever disfigure our beautiful home. I ask you again: How many towers will it take to provide the coverage which
    we already have? If you don’t know, just say so.

    It seems to me that we are not only selling out our heritage here, but selling it out cheap, for the convenience of a few. That is a shame. A real crying shame.

    Ben Jones

  5. The existing landlines in many parts of the county are minimally maintained at best so as to comply with federal regulations requiring the local telco to provide POTS to area homes (POTS == plain old telephone service). Problems such as line noise or static will continue to get worse on copper infrastructure that is decades old and the line quality will never support much in the way of digital services. Cellular telecommunications service is the future here in Rappahannock.

  6. For those that think landlines are well maintained, i wish that were true. I am in a small area serviced by Verizon on the NE area of the county. Every time it rains, really bad service (the drought was kind to me this year:). One repair person said it will never be right until they fix the main problem down by the bridge. Not likely to happen. So, landlines are dying.

    Joyce

  7. Regarding the current plans to put up a cell tower at the high school – one has to ask, have any of our county professionals really thought this through or done any due diligence? The Israeli government recently took actions to protect their school children from the dangerous effects of EMG and cell phone use. See this recent article from the Jerusalem Post, which refers to actions already taken in 21 US states.

    Israeli Knesset panel endorses plan to minimize
    electromagnetic radiation exposure in schools

    By Judy Siegel

    23 Nov. 2010

    Although it has not yet been clearly proven that exposure to electromagnetic radiation (EMR) poses a danger to schoolchildren’s health, a joint session of the Knesset Interior and Labor, Social Affairs and Health committees declared on Monday that a program should be launched to minimize such exposure as a cautionary measure.

    The joint session, chaired by Hadash MK Dov Henin, endorsed the recommendations made recently by an interministerial committee of experts headed by Tel Aviv University Prof. Siegal Sadetzki, who conducts research at the Gertner Institute’s cancer and radiation epidemiology unit. Sadetzki, who represented the Health Ministry and is a leading expert on environmental dangers and health, headed the effort to produce
    recommendations, along with colleagues from the Environmental Protection and Education ministries and the Israel Electric Corporation.

    Regarding cellular phones, the committee urged instituting an educational program to reduce pupils’ use of the devices by teaching them the potential dangers.

    According to the experts, SMS messages are preferable to making calls, and using earbuds is better than holding the phone close to the head. In addition, cellphones should not be used while driving. The devices also have a negative effect on sleep, Sadetzki said.

    The program will also include monitoring of this educational initiative via pupil surveys and an interventional program. In addition, the team recommended installing land-line phones in schools so children can contact their parents (and others) without using cellphones. The members suggested setting up cellphone-free zones in schools, which would be observed by teachers as well as youngsters.

    They also urged the Transportation Ministry to prohibit inexperienced young drivers’ use of cellphones in moving vehicles – not just without hands-free headsets or speaker systems, but speaking on cellphones at all. This has already been adopted in 21 US states.

    The widespread habit, which does not involve dangerous EMR exposure, has been shown in numerous studies to reduce drivers’ concentration and their ability to keep their eyes on the road. The team suggested that drivers of buses and taxis with passengers should not be allowed to use cellphones at all – a move that has been adopted in 17 US states.

    Henin, who chaired the session, said that “the fact that EMR cannot be seen does not mean that it is not dangerous. We must ensure that children [and staffers] who spend many hours a day in educational institutions are safe.”

    Concern about exposure to EMR is just part of the “Healthy Educational Environment” view expressed in a bill he presented to the previous Knesset along with additional MKs, he added.

  8. Sam,

    You are using an obvioius “spurious correlation” here. First of all, you are in denial about the very real data that points to the serious and tragic results of cellphone/texting usage while driving. This is not about eating a sandwich or using the CD player. It is about people dying all over America from using cell phones while driving. Got it?

    And the obvious reason there have been few accidents attributable to cell phone usage here is that there is very little cell phone service here. I ask you again to Google “cell phone traffic fatalities” and to tell us how many cell towers it will take
    to cover the area that landlines already cover.

    As for my friend Chris Moyles’ prediction, I can only add that there will also be “pie in the sky bye and bye . . . .”

    Ben Jones

  9. Karen, more statistics but still no control studies that indicate that cell phones have caused a significant increase in traffic accidents or fatalities here in the county. Distracted driving is the problem (whatever the distraction may be), not cell phones. If you can prove that the installation of the Sprint cell towers in Rappahannock County directly caused a statistically significant increase in traffic fatalities/accidents on county roads, I’ll buy into your argument.

    Ben, when the landline goes down, it is out for days. When it rains, the static drowns out the conversation. The sound quality is so poor that a dialup connection hasn’t been possible in years. Sprint, then Embarq, and now CenturyLink have never been able to solve it (nor do they really care to). If that hasn’t been your experience with your landline, then you are very fortunate.

    The towers will provide access for many residents to modern telecommunications here in the county and the benefits it will provide.

  10. Gabriel and all,

    I beg to differ on the idea that cell service will do nothing to improve the economic development in the county. Here is a copy of a Rappnet comment I made that applies directly to that idea . . .

    In the Rapp Economic Redevelopment meetings, at one point the superintendent of the park system cited pass-through statistics of over 400,000 vehicles a year through Thornton Gap, which is an increase over previous years.

    A tourist who can use cellular data transmission to find local businesses is a tourist who is more likely to stop and make use of local businesses. Many cell phones offer applications that will map local restaurants, gas stations, and other businesses such as wineries and even local farm markets. Take a look at Google Earth, on my cell I can get a street level photo of Sperryville Pike with the Thornton River Grill, High on the Hog, Rudy’s, Burgers n’ Things and Hopkins Ordinary marked with location and a description of their services. This functions a bit better than homemade signs decaying in the median.

    Somebody should let the the F.T. Valley Store and the Quicke Mart know they can add their businesses with an important tag such as HAVING GAS. The new River District building oughta be in there as well as the local country stores . . . County Tourism person, NUDGE, NUDGE.

    Folks are using cellular data transmission to find businesses these days. Local folks are using local businesses that have wi-fi service because they cannot get the service at home. IMHO, in a county of 6,000 +/- having those local folks as a primary income source isn’t the greatest business model, the existing, thriving, business models in the reach out regionally, nationally, and internationally through high speed data transmission.

    I know of many businesses that no longer function with landlines and rely on cellular communications technologies.

    I’ve said it for years but when cellar data transmission and phone service is available in Sperryville, I will open a branch office there, and I’m willing to bet many of the vacant store fronts in Flint Hill and Sperryville will begin to fill up, especially considering the absence of business taxation structures that are standard in just about every other locality in Virgina.

    Right now, to reach an office that has consistent cellular service, essential for my staff that is constantly traveling, I have to either drive to my Warrenton office or my Madison office — a 24-mile one way trip. Gas is back up to $3 dollars a gallon.

    Here’s an example of the positive impact high-speed communications can have on an area.

    ““This project is unique in that these 100 new employees will complete online training and telework from home, saving transportation dollars and ensuring that the creation of the call center will have a positive economic impact on a broad area.

    http://projectvirginia.com/virtual-call-center-to-create-100-new-jobs-in-southwest-va/

  11. Four points —

    First, it is painfully obvious that this tower — and the others to follow — will do little or nothing for the economic development of the county. Their sole purpose is to protect AT&T customers from incurring “dropped calls” while they drive through Rappahannock on their way to somewhere else. There will be poor or nonexistent coverage for people who don’t live very close to the main roadways — including people who are injured or need to make emergency calls. It’s a shame so many people at the hearings seemed to believe otherwise.

    Second, AT&T could easily have provided applications for all five towers at once. That it chose not to means it perceives an advantage in taking the towers one by one. An advantage for AT&T may well be a disadvantage for the citizens of Rappahannock, and I think it was a serious mistake to allow the process to proceed in this way. At the hearings it was obvious that some county employees had prejudged the issue and had no interest whatsoever in public opinion. Similarly, the plans to put a tower at the high school — creating a modest money-machine for the county and the school system — seems not to have been discussed during the approval process for the Boston tower. Why not? Because it’s a separate application?

    Third, that stretch of 522 is extremely dangerous. At least two young people have died within a couple thousand feet of the new tower within the past few years. One died quite recently — in a single car crash at 10 in the morning. Putting functional cell phones in the hands of teenagers and others as they navigate the twists and turns between Woodville and Boston may very well lead to more deaths and injuries. It’s too bad no one in the County leadership seems concerned by this.

    I don’t think this tower is the end of the world, or that it and the others will significantly hurt “the viewshed.” But I object to the fundamentally dishonest way the tower was pitched to the county. These towers are NOT going to promote economic development. And they are unlikely to help many people who need to call emergency services. The county government is here to serve and protect the citizens and taxpayers of Rappahannock County; it does not owe an automatic “yes” to every corporate interest that breezes through in search of additional profits.

  12. According to a driver named Sam: “Philip’s comments are right on the money. The landline infrastructure here in Rappahannock is decades old and failing. Cell towers represent telecommunication’s future.”

    Well . . . seems to me that the bit about the landlines is half true, at least where I live. They are decades old — so is copper wire but it does do the job.

    The failing part I can’t see as valid. Mine works when the powers gone but then I don’t use those wireless ones that need that power to broadcast their signals and allow for anyone with a radio to listen in on the conversations.

    As for “Cell towers represent telecommunication’s future,” it would seem to me that such a statement is about 20 years late . . . No, if anything cell towers represent another technology that is going to suffer what all technology suffers — it is going to be outpaced and replaced and sacrificing our adherence to our Comprehensive Plan for it will prove to be more problematic than some seem to credit. Seems to me that Ben’s rebuttal represents a good bit of what a lot of us here feel.

    Thanks, Ben!

  13. Hey Sam,

    Do me a favor. Google “Cell Phone Traffic Fatalities.”

    And ask yourself a question:

    “How many cell towers will it take to cover the hills and hollows of Rappahannock County?”

    The future of telecommunications is satellite coverage. Until then, my old worn-out telephone
    seems to work just fine.

    Ben Jones

  14. Sam writes, “Karen lists a lot of statistics (source?) but fails to mention one important one: Is there a direct and appreciable increase in injuries and deaths caused by drivers while using cellular devices?”

    We can choose to remain oblivious to reality or we can open our eyes to a clear and present danger. I for one don’t want to increase my chances or the chances of my loved ones to be killed or crippled on Rappahannock’s roads.

    I find it hard to understand why Sam and Phillip seek to minimize or even ignore the actual hazards caused by cell phones and driving.

    There are numerous important studies which are easy to find on the internet. Here are just two:

    American Automobile Association
    From the results of their exhaustive study . . . the following conclusions may be offered.

    1. All forms of cellular phone usage lead to significant increases in the establishment of non-response to highway-traffic situations and increase in time to respond.

    2. Complex, intense conversation leads to the greatest increases in likelihood of overlooking significant highway traffic conditions, and the time to respond to them.

    3. The distracting effect of cellular phone use among drivers over age 50 is two to three times as great as that of younger drivers and encompasses all three aspects of cellular phone use — placing calls and carrying on simple and complex conversations. The effect is to increase non-response by 33-38 percent.

    4. Prior experience with cellular phones appears to bear no relation to the distracting effect of cellular phone use.

    Virginia Tech Transportation Institute Study – 2009

    CELL PHONE TASK
    Risk of Crash or Near Crash event

    Light Vehicle/Cars

    Dialing Cell Phone
    2.8 times as high as non‐distracted driving

    Talking/Listening to Cell Phone
    1.3 times as high as non‐distracted driving

    Reaching for object (i.e. electronic device and other)
    1.4 times as high as non‐distracted driving

    Heavy Vehicles/Trucks

    Dialing Cell phone
    5.9 times as high as non‐distracted driving

    Talking/Listening to Cell Phone
    1.0 times as high as non‐distracted driving

    Use/Reach for electronic device
    6.7 times as high as non‐distracted driving

    Text messaging
    23.2 times as high as non‐distracted driving

  15. Distracted driving is a problem but don’t pin it entirely on cell phones. There are many other things that compete for a drivers’ attention these days . . . the consumption of food and portable music players to name a couple. Karen lists a lot of statistics (source?) but fails to mention one important one: Is there a direct and appreciable increase in injuries and deaths caused by drivers while using cellular devices? (I don’t recall an epidemic of accidents and deaths here in Rappahannock when the Sprint towers went live).

    Philip’s comments are right on the money. The landline infrastructure here in Rappahannock is decades old and failing. Cell towers represent telecommunication’s future.

  16. With all due respect to Philip Rosemond, and with appreciation for the vital and important work of
    our county’s volunteer emergency services, I must say simply that he has this wrong, and he may
    have this dead wrong. What Karen reports is an epidemic of automobile carnage that is directly
    the result of cell phone usage and texting while driving. Even a cursory bit of research will show that
    to be true.

    This had been a major national story for some years, and though “statistics can lie,” these statistics
    are all too real. The hypothetical situation of someone being saved by a cell phone is less likely than
    the hypothetical that someone would be injured or killed by such usage. That is a fact, Jack. Putting
    hundreds of phone users on Rappahannock’s roads is indeed tantamount to putting hundreds of
    drunk drivers on Rappahannock’s roads. That is the national reality right now.

    Phillip says he doesn’t care about eyesores. But the vast majority of us do. We live in the most beautiful county in the Commonwealth, and we have managed fine with minimal cell phone service. I’ve got a phone in my office here, and one in my home. I don’t need to ride around in my truck yakking because I can.

    And what’s this about “Johnny-come-latelies”? The “come-heres” are the ones pushing this deal, which goes very much against the county’s comprehensive plan and the county’s tradition of independence. Bill Fletcher? A johnny-come-lately? I don’t think so.

    And one doesn’t have to be cynical to sense that the “fix is in” on this one. The whole process has been on a suspiciously fast track.
    I’m even peeved by the lead in the news story: “In the end, practicality beat out romance.” Do what?

    Besides being totally subjective, it suggests that one who simply likes the status quo here in Rappahannock is an impractical romantic. That is rather like Demaris Miller’s comment in favor of AT&T putting up these plug-ugly towers because “I hope we will not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.” Which is to say that the way things are now is perfect. And that is not good. So let’s screw it up.

    This has not been the Board of Supervisor’s finest hour. And our county is less for it.

  17. Mr Rosemond’s comments are simply ill-informed. He writes, “There is only anecdotal and quasi-scientific studies done on the use of digital cell phones and harm.” Here following are the scientific facts Mr. Rosemond ignores. If our community refrains from succumbing to the pro-cell phone propaganda, Mr. Rosemond and his admirable fellow volunteers at Sperryville VRS will have less of a need to respond to horrible automobile accidents in our county. Just because we now live in the 21st century doesn’t mean we have to abandon good old common sense and a healthy instinct for survival.

    Teen Driver Cell Phone and Texting Statistics
    •Despite the risks, the majority of teen drivers ignore cell phone driving restrictions.
    •Talking on a cell phone while driving can make a young driver’s reaction time as slow as that of a 70-year-old.
    •56% of teenagers admit to talking on their cell phones behind the wheel, while 13% admit to texting while driving. (Note: Because this information was given voluntarily by teens, actual cell phone use numbers may be much higher.)
    •48% of young Americans from 12-17 say they’ve been in a car while the driver was texting.
    •52% of 16- and 17-year-old teen drivers confess to making and answering cell phone calls on the road. 34% admit to text messaging while driving.
    •In 2007, driver distractions, such as using a cell phone or text messaging, contributed to nearly 1,000 crashes involving 16- and 17-year-old drivers.
    •Over 60% of American teens admit to risky driving, and nearly half of those that admit to risky driving also admit to text messaging behind the wheel.
    •Each year, 21% of fatal car crashes involving teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 were the result of cell phone usage. This result has been expected to grow as much as 4% every year.
    •Almost 50% of all drivers between the ages of 18 and 24 are texting while driving.
    •Over one-third of all young drivers, ages 24 and under, are texting on the road.
    •Teens say that texting is their number one driver distraction.
    Cell Phones, Text Messaging, and Car Accident Information for All Drivers
    •Talking on a cell phone causes nearly 25% of car accidents.
    •One-fifth of experienced adult drivers in the United States send text messages while driving.
    •In 2008 almost 6,000 people were killed and a half-million were injured in crashes related to driver distraction.
    •At any given time during daylight hours in 2008, more than 800,000 vehicles were driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone.
    •4 out of every 5 accidents (80%) are attributed to distracted drivers. In contrast, drunk drivers account for roughly 1 out of 3 (33%) of all accidents nationally.
    •Texting while driving is about 6 times more likely to result in an accident than driving while intoxicated.
    •A study of dangerous driver behavior released in January 2007 by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. found that of 1,200 surveyed drivers, 73% talk on cell phones while driving. The same 2007 survey found that 19% of motorists say they text message while driving.
    •In 2005, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 10% of drivers are on handheld or hands free cell phones at any given hour of the day.
    •A study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Motorists found that motorists who use cell phones while driving are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves.
    •In 2002, the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis calculated that 2,600 people die each year as a result of using cellphones while driving. They estimated that another 330,000 are injured.
    •According to the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, drivers talking on cell phones are 18% slower to react to brake lights. They also take 17% longer to regain the speed they lost when they braked
    •Of cell phone users that were surveyed, 85% said they use their phones occasionally when driving, 30% use their phones while driving on the highway, and 27% use them during half or more of the trips they take.
    •84% of cell phone users stated that they believe using a cell phone while driving increases the risk of being in an accident.
    •The majority of Americans believe that talking on the phone and texting are two of the most dangerous behaviors that occur behind the wheel. Still, as many as 81% of drivers admit to making phone calls while driving.
    •The number of crashes and near-crashes linked to dialing is nearly identical to the number associated with talking or listening. Dialing is more dangerous but occurs less often than talking or listening.
    •Studies have found that texting while driving causes a 400% increase in time spent with eyes off the road.

  18. I applaud the building of these towers. I don’t care whether or not they are hidden or eyesores: we NEED these communications. We live in the 21st century. If fire, rescue and other first responders do not have cell access, we often miss emergency calls. If we receive it late, we arrive late. For fires it is critical to arrive ASAP. But, for EMS, it may be a little vague as to why speed is a necessity. In responding to a critical incident, a coronary or respiratory issue, we have a “magic hour,” which can mean life or death to the victims. It’s already a very long ride to the Culpeper or Fauquier emergency facilities, so receiving calls when we are not near a landline phone is absolutely imperative.

    To answer points above:

    The hands-on use of cell phones while driving will likely be illegal in Virginia soon. The use of hands-free sets will likely be kept, and the industry will undoubtedly respond to this in making it more user-facile.

    There is only anecdotal and quasi-scientific studies done on the use of digital cell phones and harm. Correlative evidentiary made by such studies have had mixed results. Correlative evidentiary can only produce theoretic results, not direct proof. But, hard science applied in autopsies and most other actual lab work have shown no causal effect of digital cell usage upon heavy users of this technology. Maybe it will in the future. We can ban cell phones as easily as we can hunker down in a bunker and avoid the real world, but it won’t stop life from going on. So, best to use technology responsibly, which is what these cell towers will do for us.

    The environment of Rappco will be hurt little by such towers. Silos and tree-blinds can mitigate this. As John said, possibly we won’t need towers in the future.

    Rappahannock’s scenic beauty must be preserved, but rationally. We don’t live in a bubble. Preserving this world must go hand in hand with enhancing it with livability. Rappco is a primarily working county. It is a playground second, and then mostly for tourists on the weekend. If you don’t think they want to communicate with their families at home, think again.

    Lastly: The Johnny-come-latelies here can decry the encroachment of technology. But, when it comes to life and death, sorry, it’s not about what you want, and pretty pictures to paint; it’s about what the county needs. Period.

    Philip S. Rosemond,
    Sperryville VRS

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