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Should cell phone drivers be singled out?
My objections to this are twofold:
(1) In all the debate leading up to this "landmark legislation", it was repeated time and again that reliable data from police agencies is EXTREMELY spotty on whether cell phone use makes any contribution to safety or the lack thereof among drivers. Therefore, we have no way of really knowing whether cell phones are realy the menace to the driving public that so many people want to paint them.
Yes, I know that intuitively, it seems obvious to some that cell phone use while driving simply MUST impair a driver's abilities. But what is intuitively obvious is not always the truth, as we all know.
This leads me to point
(2) there are SO MANY things people do in their cars now that is much more dangerous than using a phone, I can't even begin to name them all. I have witnessed, at 60 mph in the last couple of weeks, people
- putting on make-up
- reading the newspaper
- trying to read a map
- eating a fast food combo - stuff dripping everywhere, trying to steer with the elbows while manhandling that Big Mac, that sort of thing
- fiddling with the darn iPod, trying to make sense of the display and figure out why the darn thing just won't play the right track
I can think of others - I mean, we have aftermarket entertainment systems now that will play movies in the car, as well as TV, and internet access. This trend is only going to escalate in the next few years.
Already there is a fuss here in California because people have begun text messaging while driving, and the freshly minted "landmark legislation" failed to outlaw texting! Which makes me think that no matter how much legislation you write, people will always find a way around it.
Which leads me to my point: I don't think it ws right to single out cell phones in this way. What I would like to see instead is a law mandating special penalties for any erratic or dangerous driving that is deemed to be caused by the driver doing ANYTHING while driving (including all the ones I listed above, AND using cell phones, AND anything else that might exist) that distracts him/her from the task at hand. I am talking SERIOUS penalties on the order of drunk driving penalties - perhaps a $500 minimum fine, and two points on the driving record instead of the usual one.
And yes, in the interest of full disclosure, I am a cell phone owner and user, and I have been known to carry on a conversation or two while driving, although I try to avoid it. I know, boo hiss, right?! I also expect that most enthusiasts here will be of the mindset "get off the phone and DRIVE!" like that bumper sticker the Car Talk guys put out. But I am as much interested in clamping down on all sorts of negligent driving behaviors as I am in not singling out cell phones. The roads are a mess, after all. I am curious to hear others' thoughts on this, if you would care to respond.
2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)