Alright, so, since I've been told that I don't post enough, here you go. You asked for it! 1. Should cell phone use be made illegal in the U. S. or is this a libertarian issue that should be left to the individual?
I don't take it lightly when the government wants to ban something, whether it is a public safety issue or not. I don't like being told what to do by a group of people who barely represent me, and are in all likelihood way out of touch with their average constituent.
In this case, though, the current laws do not seem to be working. Yeah, it is illegal to drive while distracted in most states. It is also illegal to park on the wrong side of the street, illegal to drive with your music too loud or with headphones on, illegal to operate a loud vehicle (sorry Harley owners-- your motorcycles are annoying), illegal to turn or change lanes without signalling, illegal to pass on the right, illegal to hang something from your rear view mirror, and illegal to place stickers on your back window. Do people follow these laws and, more importantly, are these laws enforced? The answer is a definitive 'no.'
The issuance of drivers licenses is done at a state level, supposedly with safety in mind. The majority of the enforcement of these laws, however, lies with the local authorities, either city or county. There are more laws broken than tickets written. I would bet everything I own on that statement.
It would sure be nice if people were responsible enough to understand that driving while talking on their cell phone, regardless of how well they think they are able to do it, is a distraction. That is simply not the case.
Take another read of OverlandSailor's post. I don't mean to single him out, but his post is a good representation of the "cell phone driver."
He is ultimately convinced that he is equally as good of a driver when talking on the phone than when simply driving. "I know from my own experience that it is definitely possible to drive safe while using a cell phone."
But, he disputes his own assertion when he states, "People who know me tell me I sound distant when we are talking on the cell, and they are also used to the occasional "hold on a sec" as I direct my attention completely to getting or or off a highway or what not."
Quite simply, that is as close to an admission of distraction that a cell phone driver will concede. It says right there that, while talking on the phone and driving, attention is directed away from driving the vehicle and towards the comparatively unimportant act of talking on the phone. Let's face it-- nobody is going to die if you mispronounce a word or say the wrong thing on a phone call, but people may die of you miss a stop sign, or exit the expressway from two lanes over.
I used to have a cell phone. I don't anymore, mainly because I recognize the value of using my time as I choose, and not having my plans changed by an unwanted phone call. But, I did have one for several years, and yes, I did drive while talking on the phone.
From that experience, I can certainly say that there were several "close calls" where my attention was diverted towards the phone and away from my primary task at hand-- arriving safely at my destination. Everyone who has spent a considerable amount of time talking on a cell phone while driving will certainly be able to recall several of the "close calls" they created through their distracted driving. If a cell phone driver refuses to admit they haven't been involved in any close calls, that is a sure sign that they are much, much, much more distracted than they are aware.
So what is the solution? Well, again building on OS's post, if we ban cell phone driving outright, we must also ban "Eating, putting on makeup, shaving, reading, changing the channel on the radio, dropping a cigarette, checking directions, looking at a map, and the biggest ones - correcting children in the back seat, or arguing with a spouse / significant other.
All of those, however, are already banned via laws that prohibit distracted driving. As such, I personally see no benefit in passing another law to clarify the obvious.
Since the state gets to determine whether or not someone is qualified to drive via a road test, I think it is completely reasonable to expect "on the phone" testing when applying to get a drivers license.
People who wish to talk on the phone should be required to pay a fee (tax) to take a special driving test. If the driver passes, both their license and their license plate would reflect that they have been legally certified to drive a vehicle while talking on the phone. The fee would cover the salary and time for those who administer the exam, and would pay for the special license plates and drivers license.
Then, an officer could quite simply pull over anyone who is on the phone while driving a vehicle without a license plate that reflects their certification to drive a vehicle while conversing on the telephone.
This could be coupled with "must write" rules within the police departments. "Must write" rules are the very same reason why you may have gotten a ticket for travelling a mere two miles over the speed limit. Simply put, if people in a neighborhood complain enough about speeders, the police will instate the "must write" rule for traffic in that neighborhood. If you are pulled over, even for the most minimal of infractions, the officer must write the ticket. There are to be no warnings and no second chances-- they "must write" you the ticket. Can you tell I have been the victim of these rules?
I fully expect that someone will come along and tell me that I am wrong (OS
), and that if we setup special licensing programs for cell phones, we should for all the other distracted driving habits that we see every day. I understand the point. However, we must prioritize the laws that grant our driving privileges to maximize the safety of other motorists. People who yell at their child in the back seat typically only do it for a few moments. People who tune their radio typically only do it for several seconds. People who drop a cigarette do not do it intentionally. We have to prioritize. People who are "nearly constantly on the phone while driving"
are certainly more dangerous than the radio-tuning driver, or the yelling-at-the-kid driver, and putting an end to their distracted use of a two-ton projectile should be given top priority. 2. If such laws are enacted, should they be local, state or federal?
State. They issue drivers licenses to those who qualify, and they deny licenses to those who do not.
There are no "Federal Rules of the Road" as far as I know, and there is no reason to make them now. If the feds want us to pass a law at a state level, they can do what they have been doing for years and years. They confiscate our money via the tax code, and then redistribute it to each state according to its willingness to pass the laws that the federal government has required (example
Since we are stuck in this rather socialistic system where the feds take from each state according to its ability, and give to each state according to its need, I would rather we keep the broken system we have now than create an entirely new broken system in which our only avenue for change is via our federal representatives, as opposed to our state representatives.
So there you go. A post from me! You can't say you didn't ask for it!