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BoF
We have laws requiring drivers to wear seat-belts, laws that require helmets for motorcycles riders, laws requiring safety inspection of vehicles and laws against driving while under the influence of alcohol.

About three weeks ago I was driving on S. Hulen Street, one of the main North/South drags in Fort Worth. A woman driving a Suburban cut in front of me, crossing two lanes of traffic in the process. I watched as she moved crossed two lanes to get back in to the right lane and as she made another move back to the center. At no time did she use her blinker to indicate a lane change. I was going the limit (40 mph), so in order to pass me she had to be doing about 50. I caught up with her at a signal light. Sure enough, she was yapping on a cell phone. I honked the horn several times to get her attention. She rolled her window down and I told her I didn’t mind her cutting in front of me, but that she needed to put the cell phone up and pay attention to her driving and use her blinker. She said, "sorry" and when the light changed drove off without ever ever taking the cell phone from her ear. I have no qualms about being “rude” to people who deserve it. Where is a cop when you need one?

There have been some studies that indicate even hands free cell phones are a distraction to drivers

QUOTE
A new study confirms that the reaction time of cell phone users slows dramatically, increasing the risk of accidents and tying up traffic in general, and when young adults use cell phones while driving, they're as bad as sleepy septuagenarians.

‘If you put a 20-year-old driver behind the wheel with a cell phone, their reaction times are the same as a 70-year-old driver who is not using a cell phone,’ said University of Utah psychology professor David Strayer. "It's like instantly aging a large number of drivers."

<snip>

Cell phone distraction causes 2,600 deaths and 330,000 injuries in the United States every year, according to the journal's publisher, the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.

<snip>

Strayer and his colleagues have been down this road before. In 2001, they found that even hands-free cell phone use distracted drivers. In 2003 they revealed a reason: Drivers look but don't see, because they're distracted by the conversation. The scientists also found previously that chatty motorists are less adept than drunken drivers with blood alcohol levels exceeding 0.08.
Separate research last year at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign supported the conclusion that hands-free cell phone use causes driver distraction.


http://www.livescience.com/technology/0502...ell_danger.html

Questions for debate:

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?

2. If such laws are enacted, should they be local, state or federal?
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Victoria Silverwolf
1. The big difference between seat belt laws and laws against cell phone use while driving is that the latter deal with situations where the driver is putting other people into danger, too. Since I am a (somewhat reluctant) supporter of seat belt laws (because they do so much good compared with a very small loss of freedom), it only makes sense that I should support laws against using a cell phone while driving. (I have to admit my prejudice here. I have no idea what the appeal of cell phones might be in the first place. I hate talking on the phone, and I refuse to carry that technological annoyance around with me.)

2. Interesting question. I'm tempted to say local and/or state; but what happens when you suddenly drive across the border? The rules change, and things could get messy. Even so, I tend to lean to the smaller levels of government.

Does anybody know if drivers who have cell phones installed into their cars have to pay higher insurance rates? Maybe that's a possibility. hmmm.gif
VDemosthenes
QUOTE
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?



My inner-Libertarian would be screaming "let the people decide," if I hadn't seen a car slam into a tree because the driver was stupid enough to be talking on a cell phone. And when you asked if cell phone use should be made illegal in the U.S, I assume you mean only when driving? If when driving, I support wholeheartedly the use being illegal. Unless of course the driver has hands-free technology such as Bluetooth or a speaker phone adaption.


QUOTE
2. If such laws are enacted, should they be local, state or federal?


State. Florida is putting a cell phone law on the 2,006 election. I think that letting people choose on that level invites more willingness to vote for cell phone laws. Federal is absolute and might encounter some resistance.



Julian
For context, it is illegal in the to drive while using an hand-held cell phone (we call them mobile phones here)

The logic being that, having one hand removed form the wheel and clamped to one's ear while in conversation is dangerous, since it limits one's ability to drive safely, avoid hazards, and so on. This is even more true in the UK than it would be in the USA, where roads are generally narrower, population density is higher overall, and most cars have manual gearboxes (meaning you need to use both hands more often).

This is especially true for SMS text messaging, which must be akin to reading a book or newspaper while driving.

I'm not absolutely certain whether this is a specific offence in it's own right, or just an applied extension of the offense of "driving without due care and attention", for which the penalty varies from a warning, to a small fine and driving licence endorsement (We have a system here where infringements carry a number of "points" that tot up, and if you get twelve or more points, you lose you licence for a specificed period.), right up to a large fine and possible imprisonment if anyone else is injured or killed.

It is not illegal to carry out a phone conversation while driving - you just have to use some kind of device that permits you to do it without using your hands. If they'd made that illegal, then the logic would have meant all other distractions - including speaking to other passengers, or listening to any kind of radio or music - would have to have gone too, and that's just a bit silly, unless multi-seat vehicles themselves are to be prohibited. Even then it's daft.

This is possible because many people have installed "car kits" of various types, all of which are roughly equivalent to handsfree technology for domestic phones. At the budget end of the market, there is an earpiece or headset of some kid connected to the phone, which is usually mounted onto some kind of holder and plugged into the cigar lighter to charge. More expensive models are hard-wired into the vehicle (some models of car come with them factory fitted as an option) so the microphones are integral and the sound comes over the car stereo speakers.

Bluetooth (wireless) headsets are more and more common now (I have one myself), which is even easier because you can leave your phone in a bag or pocket, and provided you take the bag with you or leave your earpice on, you can get in and out of your car as many times as you like. Mobile phone theft is also thought to be less likely with this technology, since it isn't obvious where the phone itself (the expensive part) is about your person - unlike walking down the street with it pressed to your ear.

That said, we also have compulsory seat belt laws for drivers and all passengers (front and rear). We also have about the safest roads in the civilised world. There are grumblings about the "nanny state" interfering in our lives over road safety, but most of those are directed at the automated speed cameras that dot our verges and photograph motorists driving over the limit.
Given the vast numbers of traffic cops that seem to infest American roads, being told to drive within the speed limits doesn't bother US motorists nearly as much as it does UK ones, so I gues we just place a slightly different emphasis on what we are and are not prepared to put up with for the smooth operation of our road systems.

To answer the deabte question at hand, I think using hand-held cellphones should be illegal, because it is the kind of libertarian issue which is as likely, if not more likely, to kill or injure third parties than to kill or injure oneself. That, for me, is the threshold beyond which "do what you will" becomes untenable. I should be free to do what I like to hurt myself, but if it could hurt other people without their express consent, it should be off limits.

I don't think it matters much at what level it is prohibited. Functionally it should be a federal law, but the constitutional niceties probably mean it would have to happen at state level, if at all. County level would be too low - you'd be forever plugging and unplugging your mobile as you drove along.
popeye47
One of my favorite things to do sitting at a red light is to check how many people are using their cell phones. On the average the percent is around 40.

One thing in particular that I have noticed is someone driving in the fast lane on the interstate. Then that person will begin to slow down and guess what? That person is using the cell phone.

I believe the only time a cell phone should be used is when the car is at a complete stop.

On the postive side, cell phones are very useful in case of emergency.

But overall, cell phone use has been abused. There are definitely more negative aspects than positive.

But alas, there is too much money being made by the different companies, for any changes in the law.

p.s. By the way, what the heck did people do with their time, before cell phones.
Bill55AZ
Questions for debate:

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?

2. If such laws are enacted, should they be local, state or federal?


1. Use of any distracting device should be penalized only if law enforcement determines that it was a contributing factor to an accident. Fines should be levied, on a sliding scale perhaps, that discourage use of distracting devices, but only in case of an accident.
Let the insurance companies then further the punishment in the form of punitive insurance rates. They already do that for speeders, etc.
Driving is not a right, but a privilege. Abuse the privilege at your own risk.

2. State, with Federal involvement to minimize differences between states.
overlandsailor
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?

The short answer is NO.

Just as it should not be illegal to look at a map, eat a cheese burger, adjust your radio, check your GPS, use your CB, respond on your police radio, or do anything else that has the potential of being distracting while driving.

Some people can handle doing this and some cannot. I drive professionally for my job. My job requires that I hit time frames, keep the office informed, keep the customers informed, and address any odd issues that come up. As a result I am nearly constantly on the phone while driving. I do not let it distract me. 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. I am also known for cutting a conversation short because of road conditions, traffic, etc. I know from my own experience that it is definitely possible to drive safe while using a cell phone.

Secondly, what is the difference between a cell phone and a CB, or a police radio? Why is it that truckers and first responders have been able to talk to one an other while driving for decades without issue?

The issue is not the cell phone. The issue is the driver. If a driver is irresponsible enough to allow a conversation on a cell phone (or a map, or a lunch, or whatever) to become distracting enough that they swerve into another lane, or do anything else that could be dangerous to others we already have laws on the books to deal with this. For lesser issues there is the charge of careless driving (punishment varies per jurisdiction but the fine is usually fairly lite, however the number of points applied to your license tends to be higher and the hit you'll take on your insurance rates is brutal). For the more severe issues there is the reckless driving charge (larger fine, high number of points, huge hit on your insurance rates and frequently a short term driving privilege suspension).

Why ban the use of the device? Why not simply address those who abuse that use?

The reason governments are pushing for this is pretty simple. It is easier to enforce. We do this all the time. Take away the freedom of our citizens because it is easier to do that then to actually enforce the existing laws.

As someone who drives professionally, I do see people all the time who put others in danger while driving. Often this is because they are distracted. frequently it is due to cell phone use, but I have seen it as the result of many things. 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.

Unless we are willing to criminalize all of these distracting activities we should not criminalize cell phone use while driving. If someone is driving in a dangerous fashion because they are distracted by ANY activity, then they should be charged with careless driving at a minimum, and other drivers should feel obligated to contact the police to report such dangerous situations.

Criminalizing cell phone use while driving is not the answer.


2. If such laws are enacted, should they be local, state or federal?

If we are to decide to remove yet another freedom from the American people because we are too lazy to address the minority of Americans that allow that freedom to become an issue, then this should certainly not be a federal issue. The federal government should not have jurisdiction over any roads (outside of roads on federally owned lands).
Mike
Alright, so, since I've been told that I don't post enough, here you go. You asked for it! tongue.gif

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? ermm.gif

I fully expect that someone will come along and tell me that I am wrong (OS tongue.gif), 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! tongue.gif

Mike
overlandsailor
QUOTE(Mike @ Aug 2 2005, 02:10 PM)
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 can certainly see your point, however I think you might have missed mine. Part of being a responsible driver is knowing when and when not to do certain things in the car. There are those who eat while in the car, but would put the burger down and place both hands on the wheel when entering or exiting a highway, and there are those that would not. Considering that the risk of an accident is higher at the on and off ramps then the rest of the highway, the responsible approach would be to set aside the distraction until you've finished. That is why I say it is "definitely possible to drive safe while using a cell phone", part of the safe operation is knowing when not to do it.


QUOTE
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.


I think it is safe to say that everyone has been on one end or the other of one of these close calls. I have in the past had a few myself. Some were because I was distracted by the cell phone, some were because I was changing the radio stations, some were for other reasons. These things happen for a multitude of reasons. I fail to see the point of focusing on cell phones and ignoring the rest of the distracting practices out there.

QUOTE
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.


This is an interesting Idea. On the face of it I like it. I also like hands-free requirements / laws. However, you suggest that all of the behaviors that lead to distracted driving are already illegal, but the law is rarely enforced. So what is it in this law that will make the enforcement issue more successful?

QUOTE
This could be coupled with "must write" rules within the police departments. ...<snip>... 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? ermm.gif


This concept, like mandatory minimum sentences for crimes is something I just do no support. There are occasions when someone is guilty of a crime / infraction, but extenuating circumstances created the situations. For example, speeding to the hospital because you son has managed to shove his left eye an inch back into his head (ask my Mom about that one rolleyes.gif ). Allowing discretion to police officers and judges allows our society to take such extenuating circumstances into account. Now, if an officer abuses this power, or a judge is too lenient in the eyes of the community then it is the job of the community to address it. Police chief will not discipline the officer? Well the chief, or at least the mayor that appointed this person is an elected official. Use the ballot box to address the issue if they will not. As for judges, many are elected, so that should be easy enough to address, for those that are not, all judges are subject to the possibility of impeachment. Don't limit their discretion, rather, hold them accountable for it.

QUOTE
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).
*




Another abuse of power where the solution is the ballot box and the bull horn. wink.gif

Cube Jockey
QUOTE(overlandsailor @ Aug 2 2005, 04:12 PM)
I can certainly see your point, however I think you might have missed mine.  Part of being a responsible driver is knowing when and when not to do certain things in the car.  There are those who eat while in the car, but would put the burger down and place both hands on the wheel when entering or exiting a highway, and there are those that would not.  Considering that the risk of an accident is higher at the on and off ramps then the rest of the highway, the responsible approach would be to set aside the distraction until you've finished.  That is why I say it is "definitely possible to drive safe while using a cell phone", part of the safe operation is knowing when not to do it.
*


OS, if you talk on your cell phone while driving then you are putting yourself and others at risk, regardless of how responsible you think you are. Accidents are called accidents for a reason, people don't plan them - they happen because of an unexpected situation or something beyond your control.

You claim that there are only certain times when you are driving when you need to pay special attention, and you are 100% wrong. What happens if you are happily cruising along the highway at a constant speed and the cars in front of you slam on the brakes? What happens if you are driving through your neighborhood and a kid, ball or object jumps out in the road in front of you? I could go on an list pages of driving situations where you need to be paying attention to the road when you aren't "entering or exiting a highway".

You need to be paying attention 100% of the time you are behind the wheel, when you don't sometimes you get lucky and nothing happens. However, when you aren't paying attention your risk of getting in an accident is the greatest. In my opinion, based on the effects on your reaction time and attention being on a cell phone is not much different than being drunk or stoned while driving.

Unlike the UK, we have no restrictions on cell phones in most states which means people can use them without a handsfree device. How can you claim that you are being safe and responsible when you don't have 2 hands on the wheel and your attention is focused on a phone conversation?

QUOTE(overlandsailor)
Secondly, what is the difference between a cell phone and a CB, or a police radio? Why is it that truckers and first responders have been able to talk to one an other while driving for decades without issue?

There is a huge difference between these devices and a cell phone. First, these devices are somewhat "handsfree" and only require limited use of hands to operate. Secondly, the conversations on these devices are completely different in nature than the typical cell phone conversation. Police and first responders use radios for information and they don't sit on them the entire time they are driving. Truckers use CBs for idle conversation. Typical cell phone conversations are to handle business or personal matters, even to have arguments with people. You cannot claim that your attention is on the road, where it should be, with that going on.

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Dale in GA
Ah, one of my favorite topics/peeves . . . How often have we encountered an erratic driver, and muttered "Hang up and drive!"

I disagree with those who claim that a cellphone conversation is as distracting as eating a cheeseburger, or carrying on a conversation with someone else in the car, or tuning the radio, or whatever. It's much more distracting, and if cellphone use by drivers is banned (which I oppose), it doesn't logically follow that those other activities should likewise be banned.

I also disagree with those who claim that cell-phone use is fine as long as hands-free devices are used.

Hands-free first - while freeing up both hands for driving, a person using a cellphone while driving a car has to dial the phone if initiating a call, distracting him from the road.

But the big distraction a driving cell-phone talker has to deal with is this: s/he's not in the same environment as the other talker. If you carry on a conversation with your front seat passenger and heavy congestion ensures, demanding your full attention, the conversation dies out momentarily without any prompting from the driver - the passenger (usually) will understand intuitively that the driver cannot pay any attention to the conversation.

The person on the other end of the cellphone conversation, though, might not even know that the driver is, in fact driving - so when road conditions suddenly demands the driver's full attention, the non-driving conversationalist is unaware of it and keeps merrily yapping away. And I think that while some might be able to ignore the voice on the phone and concentrate completely on road conditions, as OverlandSailor says he can, most would be at least momentarily distracted, a potentially fatal occurrence on an interstate highway.

One's level of involvement in the conversation, as well as the conversation's complexity, also contribute to the distraction factor. As an HR Director, I once had a phone conversation with one of my company's VP's, concerning salary levels and adjustments. A noise in the background prompted me to ask him if he were driving - turns out he was in the short-term parking lot at Newark Airport, driving to the exit. I refused to continue the conversation. (I'm so tempted to say here "The following Monday, at my new job . . .")

Why is it that so many people feel it's obligatory to get on the phone the minute they get into their cars? You see this all too frequently in shopping malls' parking lots, which (IMO) are among the most dangerous places on earth.

After all that - I don't want to see cell-phone use by drivers banned altogether, but hand-held should be banned (IMO) within urban areas - the intricacies of driving on city street too often require both hands. Responsible adults can learn to use speed-dial features with little distraction (about equal to tuning the radio). Likewise, responsible adults should be trusted to find their own level of competence with cellphones in the car. Despite the emergence of statistics regarding the number of accidents in which cellphone use was involved, I think they're actually much lower, say, than accidents in which other distractions are involved (my opinion only - the quality and quantity of statistics for cellphone involvement in accidents is pretty low still.)

As to regulation - I think it's clearly a state issue, but the feds can obviously have a lot of influence on what restrictions are enacted (power of the purse). In NJ, towns took the initiative but it quickly became apparent that a patchwork of different laws across the state would be too difficult to enforce. Obviously, disparate laws from one state to the next could be a problem as well, but one doesn't cross state lines as often as one crosses local boundaries, even on a long-distance trip.

overlandsailor

First of all, hands-free can REALLY be hands free. Every phone I have ever had came with the "voice dial" option, meaning I could record my voice saying a name in the comfort of my home or office and assign it to a persons number. On the road, all I have to do is hit a button on the side of my phone (as easy to learn to do without looking as turning up the radio or hitting the "next track" button on a CD player), then state the name, and the call is placed. So, hands free operation CAN be truly hands free, or at least more hands free then the car radio.

What about when a car slams on it's breaks, a kid darts into the road, some idiot in the left lane cuts across 4 lanes of traffic to make a last minute move to exit the highway, etc? Same as happens when I am not on the phone. My eyes are on the road, my hands are on the wheel, and I react based on where the vehicles around me are (something I know from constantly checking my side mirrors).

Depending on where I am working and if I am running service calls or doing an installation I can be on the road as much as 8+ hours a day. I see these things and react to them everyday. The only difference for me (other people can obviously vary) is that I add a "hold on" to cut off my conversation. I have worked on the road for just short of five years now, driving an average of 3 or so hours a day, with some out of town jobs being 4-5 hour drives, 4-6 hour installs and 4-5 hour return trips all in the same day. I am a responsible driver, a trained driver and a highly experienced driver who has not suffered a car accident in the last 12 years. The last accident I had was one where I accidently turned into a person who had slipped up in a left lane (that I thought was a shoulder because of the way the road was marked) and was in my blind spot. I was not on a cell phone, fact is, I didn't even own one back then.

I love it when people make blanket statements about anything. "You can't possibly do this", well I do it daily, it is part of my job, just had glancing at the GPS or reading printed directions is.

I keep proper distances between myself and other cars (I prefer a 5 count whenever possible, a 4 count at a minimum), I keep a vigilant watch on my mirrors to keep tabs on the cars around me, and I keep tabs on my ways out. When Traffic is bad, weather is bad, I am entering or exiting a highway, passing someone, or anything else that adds risk to the drive I put my cell use on hold until the issue passes. When the conditions are particularly hazardous and I am not on the phone I will turn off the radio. The radio is a minor distraction, but when the hazards increase, every little bit helps.

We can all ignore the fact that I am a graduate of the Smith Systems driving school (where the instructed suggested that we limit cell us as much as possible but recognized that eliminating it is impossible in our business) and my driving record for over the last decade is spotless. Yet I drive in all weather conditions, all road conditions, at various levels of fatigue and in all levels of traffic.

I am hard pressed to accept the argument that all cell phone use in vehicles is dangerous when I worked with a company that had over 50 technicians, and in the nearly 4 years I was there, one tech had one accident (he was rear ended at a stop light by an elderly man, who did not have a cell phone).

Blanket statements may make good sound bites, but they generally make horrible public policy.
Eeyore
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?

The cell phone driver is the new nuisance on the roads. In the 1980s it was the walkman that was the target. Perhaps in the future we will move toward much heightened driver safety regulations. Yet I don't see singling out the cell phone as an effective way to improve overall road safety. It 'rings' too much like a fad law to me. If we want to pass a law that says all drivers must use two hands on the wheel at all times and avoid all conversations that is one thing.

What I have noticed is that many people, myself included, complain about idiot cell phone users one day, and are talking on the cell phone the next. I don't see cell phones leaving vehicles any time soon.

Police cars are built with radios which I assume they often use while driving. I say focus your anger on the idiotic episodes and watch your own behavior closely. Big city dwellers and techno-avoiders can be mad that the cell phone users are out there and using behind the wheel. But I think a very high percentage of people already does this.



2. If such laws are enacted, should they be local, state or federal?


If such laws are passed I think they should be state laws.
Cube Jockey
QUOTE(overlandsailor @ Aug 2 2005, 08:07 PM)

We can all ignore the fact that I am a graduate of the Smith Systems driving school (where the instructed suggested that we limit cell us as much as possible but recognized that eliminating it is impossible in our business) and my driving record for over the last decade is spotless.  Yet I drive in all weather conditions, all road conditions, at various levels of fatigue and in all levels of traffic.

I am hard pressed to accept the argument that all cell phone use in vehicles is dangerous when I worked with a company that had over 50 technicians, and in the nearly 4 years I was there, one tech had one accident (he was rear ended at a stop light by an elderly man, who did not have a cell phone).

Blanket statements may make good sound bites, but they generally make horrible public policy.
*


I haven't heard of Smith Systems, but I'm assuming that it is a much more advanced version of driving training than most people get. If you are comfortable driving while talking on your phone that is fine OS, but as you stated you have had extensive training. You need to realize that most people haven't.

Think about the rest of the country. It has probably been quite a while since you took driver's ed, but it hasn't been so long for me. I can guarantee you that it isn't in any way a comprehensive course, and that plus experience is all most people have. Think about teenagers (who are inexperienced anyway) using cell phones in the car. Or, think about those states like Georgia that have very low driving training requirements.

I think that you'll find that you are in the minority when it comes to driving skill and yet you are defining cell phone use for all drivers just the same which also doesn't make for good public policy.

I don't really know what the answer is to this problem, but I like what the UK has done - they require everyone to use handsfree devices while in the car or you get a ticket. I don't favor passing a law at the federal level, but I do think there should be state laws to that effect and I think the federal government should persuade states to pass them by threatening to withhold highway funds.
lordhelmet
QUOTE(BoF @ Aug 1 2005, 04:57 AM)

Questions for debate:

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?

2. If such laws are enacted, should they be local, state or federal?

*




1. I use the cell phone almost all day long. However, I favor laws that restrict the use of them while driving. People are bad enough drivers just listening to the radio. Cell phones are too distracting. So is smoking. I think both should be restricted while driving.

2. The laws should be state and/or federal. It's not realistic to pass through a locality that might have a stricter law than the entire state.

overlandsailor
QUOTE(Cube Jockey @ Aug 2 2005, 10:49 PM)
I think that you'll find that you are in the minority when it comes to driving skill and yet you are defining cell phone use for all drivers just the same which also doesn't make for good public policy.


No I am not. You made the blanket statement about cell phone use, not I.

QUOTE
OS, if you talk on your cell phone while driving then you are putting yourself and others at risk, regardless of how responsible you think you are.


I suggested that there are good and bad cell phone users out there, just as there are good and bad drivers. When someone violates a traffic law, they risk a ticket and all of the negatives that come with it. Why not simply enforce the careless driving laws that exist in most (if not all) states (amending them to cover the situation if the law is to tightly worded)?

Why ban the use of a cell phone as a distraction? If you limit cell phones to handsfree use they are no more distracting then talk radio is to a politics geek, or toddlers in the back seat are to parents.

QUOTE
I don't really know what the answer is to this problem, but I like what the UK has done - they require everyone to use handsfree devices while in the car or you get a ticket.  I don't favor passing a law at the federal level, but I do think there should be state laws to that effect and I think the federal government should persuade states to pass them by threatening to withhold highway funds.
*



I am a bit surprized that you would support the federal governments use of blackmail on our states. Regardless of the issue. Most states either already have hands-free laws or the law is on the table. The States regulate the roads. If a state decided to fight the federal government on this simply because of the principle of states rights and the interstates feel into disrepair because of the Federal governments blackmailing tactics the roads could easily degrade to the point of being far more dangerous then using a cell phone when driving. If lives are lost because of the lack of road repairs would you still support this blackmail tactic?

As for a handsfree requirement I fully support it.


QUOTE(lordhelmet @ Aug 2 2005, 11:02 PM)
1.  I use the cell phone almost all day long.  However, I favor laws that restrict the use of them while driving.   People are bad enough drivers just listening to the radio.  Cell phones are too distracting.  So is smoking.  I think both should be restricted while driving.

2.  The laws should be state and/or federal.  It's not realistic to pass through a locality that might have a stricter law than the entire state.
*



A Republican advocating regulation, and not even opposing it being done on a federal level. hmmm.gif As we do this sort of thing more and more, establishing federal control over what should be states issues, how will you respond when the federal government takes over something you actually car about? Each time we give them power over something that was not meant to be a federal issue we open the door wider to federalizing anything and everything.

Why criminalize a behavior that can be performed safely, rather then prosecute those who do not do it safely, through the use of existing laws?
Cube Jockey
QUOTE(overlandsailor @ Aug 2 2005, 10:53 PM)
I am a bit surprized that you would support the federal governments use of blackmail on our states.  Regardless of the issue.    Most states either already have hands-free laws or the law is on the table.  The States regulate the roads.  If a state decided to fight the federal government on this simply because of the principle of states rights and the interstates feel into disrepair because of the Federal governments blackmailing tactics the roads could easily degrade to the point of being far more dangerous then using a cell phone when driving.  If lives are lost because of the lack of road repairs would you still support this blackmail tactic?

As for a handsfree requirement I fully support it.
*


I would hardly call it blackmail OS, it is standard operating procedure. The federal government has always held tax revenues over the heads of states to get their way for as long as any of us have been alive, probably longer. They do it with education, they do it with highway funds to support things like seatbelt laws, they do it with the drinking age. It is fine if you want to be an idealist but it isn't a battle I particularly care about fighting when there are bigger fish to fry. I'm an advocate of using the tools in your chest to solve problems, right now this is an available tool. If you want to fight that battle then go right ahead but don't try and use it against me in an argument.

I'm also not a fan of the whole "states rights" argument either. I think there are certain things that are the purview of states based on our established system of laws but I believe the federal government has a responsibility to set standards for the greater benefit of the country. A lot of the states right set argue that we shouldn't be funding education and we should let states deal with it. I completely disagree with that because we have a national interest in giving our citizens a high quality education regardless of whether some states like paying taxes.

So if a state decided to tell the feds where to take their threat and as a result lost highway funds that would be their cross to bear and they'd have to answer to their voters for it.
AuthorMusician
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?

Don't hold your breath on any legislation that would make cell phone use illegal. Big Money is driving the thing, and Big Demand is pulling it. People love their cell phones -- what better way to annoy and get attention? Feel like really important? Can you hear ME ME ME ME?

I hate the things, but I'm also required to be available 24x7 when doing the high tech gigs. Arg! Pagers were bad enough, but now we have these devil devices. The most recent versions can't hold a charge worth a dang and drop signal every two minutes, it seems. Total crap.

But yah getcher ring tones! Whooo, weee.

Personally, I can't drive while talking on the cell, nor will I pay attention to your conversation all the time while driving. I'm driving, dang it, and I've ridden motorcycle since the age of 15 (great training). I'm driving. Don't annoy me. Write me a note. Send me a voice mail. I don't care, will not respond while driving. Your tush and mine are on the line.

Lydia thought this odd and arrogant when we first got to know each other. After witnessing me avoiding a couple of accidents, she has stepped back and reconsidered. You don't drive these many years accident-free without paying attention. BTW, I've survived five years of DC driving accident-free, decades of inner cities. That's worth a brag.

I like the idea of taking an insurance rate hit if caught yakking on a cell phone while driving. If I were king of the world, yakking on a cell in a public place would also carry swift and immediate punishments -- like tossed rotten tomatoes, kicks to the shins, pinches, punches, tweeks to the ears -- those sorts of childish things.

Maybe heavy fines to the cell provider that show up on the next bill? Public annoyance fee: $14,293.

Fundamentally though, I don't think there's a legal solution. People simply need to get smarter and more aware of how annoying cell phones are to others. It's like taking a leak in public.

2. If such laws are enacted, should they be local, state or federal?

Since cell phone connections cross state boundaries, federal.
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