UPDATE: June 25, 2001 New York State makes it unlawful to operate a handheld cell phone while driving. Even though an extensive study by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Resource Center shows overwhelming proof that cell phones are far and away the least of our worries. Brief synopsis: A four year study involving over 200,000 accidents that were attributed to driver distractions show the number one distraction (19.7%) as being "distractions outside the automobile" e.g. oogling a pretty girl, gawking at an accident, watching a pedestrian, etc. Number 2 distraction (18.8%) Eating or drinking while driving. Number 3 (11.4%) Fiddling with the stereo, car radio, tape deck or CD player. Number 4 (9.4%) distractions by others riding in the car, talking with passengers, dealing with infants and children, etc. The list goes on and on with cell phones near the bottom at 1.5% So Naturally the politicians went for the distraction getting the most attention, rather than those that actually cause the most accidents. You can still look over the cute guys butt at the bus stop while using the rear view mirror to put on your makeup, while lighting a cigarette, changing the CD, while keeping the french fries from falling off the dash while you have a large chocolate shake in your crotch. Yeesh.
Let me just preface this by saying I do not have a cell phone. Probably never will. So don't think I'm just a whiner! Now then...
I recently read in the news that 35 states have introduced legislation this session to in some way control the use of cell phones in cars. Be it a ban on using them while driving entirely, a ban on using hand held electronic devices while driving, or whatever. A situation fanned I'm sure by watching crazed drivers yakking on the phone while they should be driving, and not to mention that stupid TV ad with the yuppie driving his SUV while careening all over the road as the announcer sells the new "hands free system for any cell phone" that will surely save your life. the plan to legislate cell phone use is simply another plan to pacify the outcries of a few bothersome few. If I was worried about distracted drivers and safety, there are plenty of other distractions that should be legislated.
I guess first off we'd have to eliminate most "drive thru" services. In conducting my own very informal study, 74 out of 100 people who used the drive up at a local fast food joint where either eating, fiddling with their food, passing it out to passengers, putting it on the dashboard to facilitate eating, holding cups between their legs, and so forth within the distance of two blocks from the drive up. This is they were driving distracted AFTER leaving the parking lot. This should make the radius of, say, 6 blocks from any fast food place rather dangerous wouldn't you think!
It wasn't so bad at the bank. Only 24 of 100 people leaving the drive up at the bank were fiddling with cash, looking over paperwork or receipts, balancing their checkbook, or writing something down on the dash as they left the drive up and got onto the 4 lane that runs past the bank.
The list can go on and on. Anything that makes for the convenience of doing it from your car will make for distracted driving. But lets take a look at a laundry list of other distractions that MUST be outlawed if cell phones are restricted.
Kids. Can't drive with your kids in the car. What if they fight and you have to yell at them? How about when the baby drops her pacifier and you have to reach to the floor of the back seat to retrieve it to get her to stop crying? After all the safety seat probably has to be in the back so that makes it really convenient to keep tabs on the kids while driving. Perhaps a requirement for anyone traveling with children to have another adult in the car with them whose only job is to tend to the children
Make-up will have to be banned from automobiles. We've all seen drivers applying their make up, and often using the rear view mirror to do so. Most newer cars now include a vanity mirror on the drivers side visor too. Not only a nice way to help justify the price of a car nowadays, but a great convenience for the driver to do their makeup.....AFTER they park. But I don't think I can think of ONE make-up wearer that I know who I have not at some time seen primping or doing a full blown face job while driving. Ban the mirrors from the drivers side, and make toting make up while driving illegal. (Notice how I cleverly avoided making any reference that the makeup wearer was a female! Yippie for me). Seen the new battery operated curling irons? Now you can curl your hair while driving.
Now the radio is an entirely different problem. First of all most car sound systems today (they're not "radios" anymore) and so darn complicated that you can't operate them while driving anyway. Remember when it used to be simple? Turn it on, push a button. Period. Well, now you've got all the increased hazards like mangled cassette tapes that have to be rewound, untwisted and fixed while cruising down the freeway at 65 so you can hear your favorite cruising tunes. Or you've gotta get the CD wallet out from the glove box or under the seat or where ever you hide it to prevent theft. Or you drop the CD on the floor. Then, some people play them so LOUD that it can't possibly be good. It HAS to be distracting, plus preventing them from hearing traffic, emergency vehicles or outbreak of nuclear war. We'll have to ban CD's, cassettes, and loud stereos. Then there is the matter of material chosen. Some fellas will listen to those controversial and political talk shows and get so steamed up it could turn into road rage. Kids are listening to loud boom de boom music that can make them aggressive drivers, women may listen to some gut wrenching story on one of those cute Doctor Somebody shows and start crying. Nope, it's obvious that any entertainment in automobiles should be STATE controlled and regulated. Nice background music, bland weather updates, and only news items that couldn't possible get anyone excited. Naturally the radio in these vehicles would have to be state approved so there would be a set maximum volume, and perhaps it should shut off when a turn signal comes on, or the wipers are needed or whatever to insure no distractions in these high intensity driving moments.
What else may distract you while driving. Reading. Ban all reading material from cars. No mail. No magazines. No catalogs. We had one minister who told us how he kept a Bible on the seat next to him to read passages while waiting at red lights. He's the guy everyone had to honk at when the light changed I'll bet!
Pets. Keep 'em out of the car. How many times have you seen the dog sitting next to, or even on the lap of the driver? Ever think an animal may need some attention during the drive? You bet. Any animals in vehicles would have to be kept in sound proof carriers, and carried in the back seat (or preferable the trunk weather permitting).
Driving into the sun. Now THERE'S a distraction. How many times have you found yourself driving into the sun, and no sunglasses or visors seem to work right. It's hard to see, accidents are waiting to happen, and you'll be distracted. Better ban traveling toward the sun. Wait till the sun moves on, or drive the other way. I'm sure countless accidents have happened because the driver couldn't see the impending collision due to the sun. I'll bet this would especially apply to car/pedestrian accidents. Hey, if banning driving into the sun can save even one life, isn't it worth it?
Naturally getting lumped in with the cell phones in some areas are two way radios including CB sets, amateur "ham" radio, and other electronic communication devices. Some introduced bills are calling for band of any radio emitting devices being used while driving. Hmmm. You wanna be the one to tell how many hundreds of thousands of truck drivers they can't use their CB's to drive safer and while away their hours on the road! Wait till the next cab driver has to pull over while YOU'RE a passenger to answer his radio about the next fare. hey, how about the EMT, cop, appliance repair man, or the countless others who make use of two way radio on the road. How about the ham who is working with Skywarn and the National Weather Service keeping people safe tracking severe weather. "Oops, I would have reported that tornado touchdown, but I had to get the truck parked first".
It's been reported that even getting into spirited conversation with a passenger can cause deadly distractions. Better ban in car conversation. Or maybe at least provide law enforcement with some new technology to listen in on passing car conversations. "Hey Malloy, we've got a couple guys in that pickup arguing about football and it's escalating..we'd better get on 'em"
Maybe you're listening to the radio on your afternoon commute and the radio guy tells you about the new CD set of Burt Bacharachs Greatest Hits and you've GOT to have it. As they give the number you scramble thru your purse, glove box, wallet, or where ever to find a pen to jot that number down and you bounce thru a bus stop full of little old ladies waiting for the bus to take them to bingo. Thank GOD you weren't on the cell phone..that could have been illegal!
Bottom line is you CAN'T make legislation to stop people from being stupid or careless. You can't single out one thing when there are hundreds of others that cause the same problem. Most states already have distracted driver or careless driving laws on the books. It's not necessary to start singling things out like cell phones.
Oh sure, I'll hear from people who will tell me about the guy found dead in the car wreck with his cell phone still on and his girlfriend on the line, or the truck driver who was sending a message to his girlfriend on his cell as he ran into two cars. So? Maybe we should start a national master list of accidents with evidence of distraction, so we can ban EVERYTHING one item at a time. Let's be real people Write your lawmakers and tell them to turn their brains on and look at the big picture!