Thursday, July 10, 2008

Perspectives: Anti-Cell Phone Use While Driving Laws

Oh noes, it's another "substantive" post that goes beyond our usual sarcasm and bitching. Yesterday, I experienced an increasingly common phenomenon for the first time. While on the phone with my sister, who currently lives in New Jersey, she said, "I have to go, I'm about to start driving and it's illegal to hold the phone up to your ear while driving in New Jersey." This was the first time anyone has ever ended a phone conversation with me because the person was about to go driving.

I usually reserve my planned phone calls SPECIFICALLY for driving time so I can sort of multitask instead of having those calls take up time I could spend doing something else. I also like to spend driving time on the phone because it is an effective way to occupy my mind while performing the relatively mundane task of keeping the vehicle under control.

Many states now regulate cell phone use while driving in some form. One of the most common regulatory approaches is to require the use of a hands-free device for cell phone use while driving. However, opponents of regulation often argue that the problem lies in the distraction of the conversation, not in the use of the phone itself. While I agree with that to some extent, are those opponents willing to entertain the notion of making it illegal to talk to one's passengers? I don't think that would ever happen, but that's one logical conclusion of that argument. Here is a color-coded map of states with various levels of laws on point:

What do you guys think about this issue? Should states be regulating cell phone use while driving at all? What form should this regulation take? Do we like the hands-free requirements already adopted in many states? Do we need to go further and require drivers to bind and gag their passengers to avoid conversational distractions from backseat drivers? Please discuss in the comments. Seriously.

I anticipate a debate of epic proportions in the comments, by which I mean I expect to get at least one post from Phaedrus being a dickhead, one from El Guapo employing some good ol' boy Southern sense, and one from mootgoescow including at least one internetism.


Phaedrus said...

It would be bad if we have a patchwork of regulations. Then how would you know on a road trip whether you could use your cell phone? Certainly this affects interstate commerce.

El Guapo said...

Cell phones are just the newest thing. It's actually a very small contributor to accidents.

It comes behind rubbernecking, driver fatigue, looking at scenery or landmarks, passenger or child distractions, and adjusting radio or cd player in cause of accidents. All these other things, we've had with us for some time. Might as well get up in arms about the new thing.

And yes. Of course you call on the road. It's the one time of day nobody wants anything from you. Might as well call your mama.

"Have you called your mama today? I sure wish I could call mine."

- Paul "Bear" Bryant

Phaedrus said...

Ummm... what about Big Macs?

mootgoescow said...

Meh, if it's not one thing, it'll be another like el guapo said. The law also seems like it'd be rather difficult to enforce. Tinted windows ftw? And even without them, how is the cop going to peer into people's cars when they're going at anything above 30 mph? And from what I've read, the act of talking on the phone is what reduces driver ability not holding the phone. I don't see how requiring the use of a hands-free device addresses this issue.

darkbiology said...

It would be nice if people were smart & responsible enough not to endanger other peoples lives, but sine common sense is in short supply in the US, we need laws to stop people from doing something that seriously increases the chance for accidents, injury and death. Use you phone before or after you drive, and don't be so narccistic & arrogant to think your conversation is so important that raising the risk of killing a fellow driver (or whole family) is worth it. If it is an important emergency then pull over and take the call. And stop being a cell junkie...if you're driving, busy, active or just plain have a life...let it go to voicemail. It's easy. And what intelligent humans do. I can see where Creationists, FOX NEWS viewers, anti-metric-system folks, etc...might not have the common sense to realize how they are putting others in danger needlessly by driving while using a cell, but that is what laws are for.