Driving under the (cell phone) influence
April 14, 2009
There’s nothing fun about being in the vicinity of a driver who’s operating a vehicle recklessly due to some distraction inside the vehicle. Nine times out of 10, it seems, that distraction is a cell phone. But is the measure that passed the State House of Representatives last week really going to save us from these folks (namely, ourselves)?
House Bill 1094 ” now moving through the State Senate ” allows adult drivers to use cell phones only with “hands free” technology, while teens, bus drivers and cabbies are prohibited from any cell phone use.
A handful of other states have similar laws on the books already, although it’s too soon to tell whether they’re doing any good. Logic, however, suggests this kind of legislation is a slippery slope: Cigarettes, Big Macs, stereo controls, coffee cups, squealing children, pets, spouses and even billboards are just a few of other driving distractions that come to mind. Shall we pass laws against them as well?
But perhaps it’s not that simple. According to studies cited by the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety, drivers using cell phones may be up to four times more likely to get in crashes. But studies posing the next question ” is talking on a cell phone more distracting than other tasks? ” are inconclusive, again begging the question of where the laws should stop.
While we understand the temptation of lawmakers to try to legislate safety when the welfare of others is on the line, this proposal seems like a non-starter. It’d be difficult to enforce at all, it would do nothing to eliminate other distractions and fails to answer yet another question: Is it really the use of hands that presents the danger, or the conversation itself? If the latter is true, we’d all be better off not driving and phoning simultaneously. Good luck passing a law on that one.
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