WASHINGTON — A national safety group is advocating a total ban on cell phone use while driving, saying the practice is clearly dangerous and leads to fatalities.
States should ban drivers from using hand-held and hands-free cell phones, and businesses should prohibit employees from using cell phones while driving on the job, the congressionally chartered National Safety Council says, taking those positions for the first time.
The group’s president and chief executive, Janet Froetscher, likened talking on cell phones to drunken driving, saying cell phone use increases the risk of a crash fourfold.
“When our friends have been drinking, we take the car keys away. It’s time to take the cell phone away,” Froetscher said in interview.
“Public awareness and the laws haven’t caught up with what the scientists are telling us,” Froetscher said. “There is no dispute that driving while talking on your cell phone, or texting while driving, is dangerous.”
Froetscher said the council examined more than 50 scientific studies before reaching its decision. One was a study by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis that estimates 6 percent of vehicle crashes, causing about 2,600 deaths and 12,000 serious injuries a year, are attributable to cell phone use. Hands-free cell phones are just as risky as hand held phones, she added.
“It’s not just what you’re doing with your hands — it’s that your head is in the conversation and so your eyes are not on the road,” Froetscher said.
I understand the concern about the distractions cell phones potentially cause, but just how far are the do-gooders at the NSC going to take trying to get “distractions” banned? Will they try to ban radios next? How about passengers? Both are distracting as well. How many times have we all been driving and talking to the person sitting next to us and realized that we’ve coasted through a red light? Or listening to the radio and realized that we’ve made a right turn before making a complete stop at the stop sign? How long before they try to get razors banned so men can’t shave their beards while looking in their rear view mirror on the way to work? How about banning make-up in a car, so women can’t apply it in the rear view mirror on the way to work or to someone’s house? There are so many distractions drivers face every day – heck, the other cars are distractions. People walking down the street are distractions.
This is the problem when so-called “safety groups” take things too far in an effort to save people from themselves. They step over a line from a reasonable request to an invasion of someone else’s privacy. It’s one thing to ban drinking while driving – alcohol is not merely a “distraction”; it impairs your ability to think clearly and make good decisions, so the NSC comparing that to talking on a cell phone while driving is like comparing apples to steak. It’s not an invasion of privacy to outlaw drunk driving, but – in my view – it’s not reasonable to expect people not to talk on their cell phones while they’re driving anymore than it is to expect them to stop talking to the passengers in their cars, or to expect them to stop listening to the radio.
What do you think?