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Clarification, re: Cell Phones
Posted at 10:52 AM on Wednesday, March 25, 2009
One of the limitations of a 4-panel comic is that it's exceedingly hard to go on honest-to-god diatribes. :) This space, on the other hand, has no such limitations.
The first misconception that I want to clear up is that I am not, in fact, arguing that talking on a cell phone while driving is SAFE. Quite to the contrary - it's a distraction, much like other things, and driving while distracted is dangerous. I would never question that - and while I do, in fact, talk on a cell phone from time to time while I drive, I do so bearing in mind the inherent dangers, and take measures to prevent them. That, however, is not my argument, here.
My argument is with the "hold-your-hand" legislation that has made it illegal to HOLD a cellphone while driving. Talking on a cell phone remains legal, but only if using a handsfree device. Most people think, for some unknown reason, that this makes sense. For some people, sure - I mean, perhaps some drivers out there lack the motor skills to properly control one hand while having a conversation. But even then, it tries to create this safety blanket that doesn't really make anyone SAFER. It is NOT the act of holding an object in your hands that makes it dangerous - it's having the conversation at all.
Let's go through a little hypothetical here to show how ridiculous it is. Say I've stopped using the horrible deathtrap that is my cell phone and picked up a bluetooth headset, and I'm using it to have a conversation with someone. Perfectly legal. I've had a rough day, so I prop my elbow up on the sideboard and rest my head on my hand a little bit. STILL perfectly legal. Now, say a cell phone managed to work its way into the space between my hand and my head. Nothing has functionally changed - yet now, I'm breaking the law. What sense does that make?
Forget even having the cell phone there - while on a bluetooth headset, you can still take a drink of coffee, change the radio station, adjust the mirror, have a bit of a cheeseburger, or a MILLION other little things that require the use of your hand. ALL of these things are perfectly legal to do while on the phone, no less. So why does it matter if you're holding the phone or not?
I've gotten a few e-mails on the subject today already - one said studies show that holding a cellphone reduces your peripheral vision significantly. I call bullshit - I held my phone up to my head like I usually use it, and it's WELL beyond the range of my peripheral vision. Doesn't even come close to entering it. Others have said that using a phone is a pain in the ass, and you have to hold your head crooked and various other things - again, bullshit. I've never had to hold my head crooked to use my phone. And then you get the people who have had close calls or accidents, and simply think it's easier to just use a headset anyway. I appreciate the sentiment, and one person was very thoughtful in how they shared that with me... but I can't support legislating mandatory "safety". Just because one person has a problem with something doesn't mean everyone does. Hell, I haven't been in an accident since 2001 (knock on wood) and the only reason that happened is because it was raining and the guy in front of me slammed on his brakes. I did too, and had my wheels not have locked up, everything would have been fine. I should note, for the record, that I had both hands on the wheel and was completely NON-distracted for that accident.
This all may sound like I'm the advocate that people should all be allowed to talk on their cellphone willy-nilly. That's not the case. Sure, I enjoy the convenience of it, but I recognize that it is the conversation ITSELF that is distracting. I probably wouldn't support a bill banning ALL cell phone use, because it's unenforceable and a huge waste of taxpayer money - but at least it would do more to address the problems they're TRYING to fix by making headsets mandatory. That's the entire point I'm trying to make.