Friday, January 13, 2012

Proposed NTSB cell phone law goes too far

Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

Radio telephones. Car telephones. Cellular telephones. Mobile telephones.

No matter what you call them, these mobile communication devices that actually trace their origins to the early 20th century have become a part of our daily lives.

Like many inventions, mobile telephones, for many years, were restricted to military, law enforcement and the wealthy. It was not until the 1980s that technology allowed pricing to fit the budget of middle-class Americans.

Fast forward to the second decade of the 21st century. It seems that everyone has a cell phone. More and more Americans use cell phones as their “home” phone in lieu of the traditional hard-wired “land line.”

One cannot drive from point A to point B without passing, or being passed, by a number of drivers engaged in a cell phone conversation or texting as they navigate their vehicle along our roadways. We are all guilty of talking on our phones while driving. Many of us are equally guilty of texting while driving.

Therein lies a major issue in traffic safety, an issue that has been undertaken by the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB is working on legislation to ban the use of mobile telephones while driving. The ban would include using a mobile phone with hands-free devices while behind the wheel.

I agree that the use of cell phones while driving is dangerous. More dangerous is the practice of texting while driving.

I can’t begin to count the number of times that I have observed erratic and dangerous driving, and find the driver entranced with their cell phone instead of paying attention to the road, and the potential weapon they are driving.

I will also admit to finding myself in situations where I am on the phone and knowingly distracted from my primary responsibility – driving my vehicle. I have been trying hard to avoid using my phone while in traffic but, sometimes, situations occur where I still find myself engaged in phone conversations when and where I should not.

First of all, I do not believe that the NTSB recommendation should ban the use of cell phones when used with a hands-free device. Granted, there is still a danger, but no more than that of listening to a car radio or being engaged in a conversation with a passenger. In my opinion, the NTSB proposal to ban cell phone use, even with hands-free devices, is an over-reaction to the issue.

Part two of the problem is that I can see most adults at least attempting to follow new laws about not talking and driving, but I do not see our younger generation following the ban. Our kids are part of the “entitled generation.” Far too many of them believe that they can do what they want and no one is going to tell them they cannot do something.

These are children and young adults who grew up with a cell phone “attached” to their ear and text with friends and family more than they actually speak to them. Arrogance and disrespect of authority is their trademark.

Unless this new law allows for the confiscating of cell phones from these youngsters, (which I doubt is constitutional,) they are not going to abide by this proposed ban.

This proposed legislation could be the most defied, and difficult to enforce, series laws since prohibition.

It is definitely time to curb that use of cell phones while driving and eliminate texting while driving. I believe, though, that better education on the dangers and stiffer penalties for those who cause a crash while using their phones are a better answer.

It is also time to make hands-free devices more available and less expensive.

I see this as another place for more common sense and less government demand.

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