On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board urged lawmakers to ban all cell phone use, including the use of hands-free devices, while operating a motor vehicle.
The ban on using cell phones while driving is critical to improving safety on the road, an idea which is just common sense. Even the use of a hands-free device is a distraction to drivers, a distraction which has proven to be deadly.
Texting, calling, and using the internet while driving are all major distractions for drivers. A driver taking their eyes off of the road for even a second become a hazard for everyone on the road. Perhaps the most cited news story in defense of the ban is that of a 19-year-old in Missouri who caused a multi-vehicle pile-up after sending 11 text messages in the 11 minutes leading up to the accident. The 19-year-old driver died and also killed a 15-year-old student. Thirty eight others were injured in the accident.
Even if the driver doesn't get into an accident while texting, there are enough close calls that happen every day to warrant this law. As a biker, I have come close to being clipped by a driver more times than I care to count, even when I'm biking in a designated bike lane and wearing the proper lights. Many times, as I pass the driver after my near-miss, I look at their car, only to see the driver texting away, oblivious to the fact that they were close to hitting me. Bikers, pedestrians, buses merging back into traffic, and of course, other cars are difficult enough to predict with full attention, even talking on a hands free device provides the extra distraction that takes away from the full attention that should be paid to all of these hazards.
Of course, this is not the first time the government has set standards about what drivers cannot do while driving. There are already laws about driving while intoxicated and laws mandating the use of seatbelts for minors. These laws were put on the books in order to create safer roads by mandating people to follow common sense rules that save lives. Banning the all use of cell phones while driving fits into this category of common sense rules.
Enforcing the law would most likely look similar to the enforcement used to cut back on drinking and driving or speeding. If police are already patrolling the roads for people violating traffic laws, cell phone use would just be added to the list of reasons to pull someone over. Other ideas include using technology to disable the phone if it is suspected that the owner is driving a vehicle.
Banning all use of cell phone while driving just makes sense. While there will never be a way to make the roads 100% safe, banning the use of cell phones while driving is a step towards decreasing distractions and making the roads a safer place.
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