A bill currently before California's State Senate (SB 1613) would make it an infraction, operative July 1, 2008, to drive a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone, unless that telephone is designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking operation.
I realize that as a "big government liberal" the stereotype is that I'm supposed to love this sort of regulation of our daily lives, but I have to say it's sheer idiocy. Not that I haven't been menaced by people who are unable to control both a conversation and a car at the same time. No. It's just that cell phones are a symptom. Distracted drivers is the problem.
According to the Palm Springs Desert Sun, banning hand-held cell phones when driving will make roads safer. While true to some extent, as a "solution" it falls woefully short. It's as short-sighted as saying that banning teenagers from using the Internet will put an end to child predators. The technology is not the problem in either case, it's just a tool.
Hands-free probably is the safer way to go, but not everybody agrees that it solves the problem. Some experts have said that it's not the holding of the phone that causes the distraction; it's the getting caught up in conversation. Hands-free can't help that.
Nobody's suggesting banning cell phones outright. Likewise, we're not going to begin passing laws banning eating while driving, or combing one's hair, fixing one's make-up, yelling at one's children, or changing the CD, checking out cute girls, etc. So why ban cell phones?
A smarter approach would be to simply empower the Highway Patrol to stop and give a warning to anybody who's driving while distracted. Get too many warnings (two in six months, or maybe three in a year) and you get a fine. Too many fines and it goes against your driver's record (and increases your insurance rates).
But then, that wouldn't get to tap onto the latest scare trend. It would require independent thinking and telling people something they don't want to hear. Don't expect anything like that coming from Sacramento anytime soon.
On another topic - 24 hours into the campaign, and we're already front page news.
Tags: cell phones, driving, hands-free, legislation