For the last six months, California has had a law that bans
driving while talking on a handheld cell phone. Like all laws, this
one is imperfect, needlessly penalizing some safe drivers and not
doing enough to rein in some reckless ones. But all in all, it
manages to neatly balance the competing claims of public safety and
For the last six months, California has had a law that bans driving while talking on a handheld cell phone. Like all laws, this one is imperfect, needlessly penalizing some safe drivers and not doing enough to rein in some reckless ones. But all in all, it manages to neatly balance the competing claims of public safety and personal freedom.
Still, for some, that compromise isn’t enough.
A group called the National Safety Council has come out for banning all cell-phone use by the driver – and with ostensibly good reason. Scientific research, the group says, proves that talking on the phone can distract drivers, which, in turn, can lead to car accidents.
Fair enough. But the National Council To Idiot-Proof the World and Ban Everything That’s Potentially Dangerous on the Road shouldn’t limit itself to cell phones.
Long before Americans began indulging themselves in the joys of dropped conversations and irritating ringtones, there were plenty of other vehicular distractions out there – all of which still abound today.
Let’s start with hamburgers. Ever seen a driver trying to scarf down a Big Mac while navigating a left turn? Ban the drive-through.
Then there are children. They can make quite a racket in the back seat, pestering parents for snacks or asking that perennial question, “Are we there yet?” The minimum age for passengers in a car – not just drivers, but passengers – really should be no lower than 16. …
Billboards can also divert the driver’s attention, especially the new flashing digital ones that have been popping up around local highways. We’d suggest prohibiting them, but that would never happen – at least not in L.A.; they’re too lucrative.
Of course, the greatest distractions aren’t usually external, but internal. Drivers fret about their romantic lives, about their jobs, about whether there might be a speed trap up ahead.
Clearly it’s time to ban thinking in the car. Sure, that one might be hard to enforce, but really not much more so than a ban on hands-free phone chat, which is also rather difficult for an officer to spot from the side of the road.
And if we’re really going to be honest about this, we must admit that the No. 1 cause of car accidents is a driver. In fact, science proves that when there is a driver in a car – even one without food, phone, passenger or passing thought – the probability of accidents skyrockets. So if we really want to make our cars and roads safe, we’ll ban drivers, too.
After all, if it saves just one life …
This editorial first appeared in the LA Daily News last week.