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Dangerous Distracted Driving Accidents: Will the Government Take Your Cell Phones Away?

NTSB’s proposal to ban all cell phone use while we drive in the car is a divisive topic. Try these quips, ripped from story comments across the web:

  • What’s next? Do they ban radios and singing to songs because they are a distraction[?]
  • I think the NTSB should require everyone to wear Sta-Puft marshmellow man suits 24/7 so we can all be totally protected from ourselves all the time
  • Tell that to the families of the people murdered by drivers who were texting right up until they slammed into the back of the vehicle in front of them…careened out of control and killed a family of Menninites returning from a wedding. BAN is the the best way to stop this insanity
  • They can have my smartphone when they rip it from my cold, dead hands

Okay, I made that last one up.

The NTSB proposal is to ban all cell phone use while driving (including texting, e-mailing, web surfing, tweeting, facebooking, sudoko playing, instant messaging, picture-taking, radio listening, video watching, Siri-talking and, oh yeah–phone calling). It doesn’t matter if you are stopped at a red light, or in bumper-to-bumper traffic. The only exception is emergency calls and, inexplicably, manufacturer installed hands-free devices.

Fundamentally, everyone should agree that people using phones become distracted and get into car accidents. Another point of agreement is that people become distracted for other reasons–using the radio, dealing with unruly children, eating, reading the newspaper, shaving, applying make-up, and watching the built-in DVD player. Those distractions also cause car accidents, but there doesn’t seem to be any legislative effort to curb those problems.

One perspective is that until the government is dedicated to stopping all versions of distracted driving, they should leave our cell phones alone. Others believe that this is a good start, or perhaps that cell phones represent a greater danger than other types of distractions. Many people question a law like this that is difficult to enforce.

As a human being and a parent (yeah, I pulled out the parent card) and not as Maryland auto accident lawyer, I’d be happiest if there were no collisions because of distracted driving. As a driver, I know that I have driven distracted with cell phone use, and I honestly don’t think using a bluetooth or other hands-free device eliminates a significant amount of the distraction. So, maybe I’m for the proposal.

On the other hand, this smacks of regulation for the sake of regulation. How many people will actually follow the law just because it is the law? Or, will it be like speeding–people typically learn where they can get away with speeding, and where they can’t. Sometimes you get caught, most often you don’t.

The law should be: don’t drive distracted. If you do, and you either get into an accident or are driving in a reckless, careless, negligent or otherwise unsafe manner, you can be ticketed. Actually, that is the law. If a cop sees you swerve, he can pull you over. If you can do it safely (can you really?), more power to you.

 

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