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Should Cell Phones in Cars Be Banned? a Libertarian Speaks

Updated on June 10, 2019

Was this Driver Texting?

Source

Do Cell Phone Bans Work?

While many of us who have had close calls with distracted drivers would like to have safer roads, is a total ban on use of cell phones in the car the answer? My own state of North Carolina is currently considering a bill that would ban holding a cell phone while driving. We already have a law against texting while driving, although I still see people doing this daily.

There are several questions we need to ask before considering such a broad ban.

Is the Problem the Technology or the Individual?

Are there people capable of using technology safely while driving? We don't generally consider a trained police officer with a radio in the car to be a hazard to other drivers. During the era of CB radios I don't recall daily reports of accidents caused by truckers talking to one another about road conditions. Cell phones, however, seem to have made the roads much more dangerous. In my own city, a college professor riding his bicycle on a sidewalk was hit by a driver who was texting. Fortunately the professor survived this act of irresponsible stupidity by an obviously distracted driver. On my daily drives around town I sometimes feel like the only person not staring at a cell phone instead of the road ahead--often these drivers are weaving ahead of me with their phones in full view.

I would suggest that the proliferation of cell phones has made them so familiar that people do not even consider the danger they pose. When people text while walking across the street, text during worship services, and text during classes, why would they stop simply because they are doing something as mundane as driving? Any fool can buy a cell phone and almost any fool can get a driver's license, so our roads are highly dangerous.

Another problem is our mistaken belief in our ability to multitask. Most people underestimate the amount of attention their phone commands and overestimate the amount of attention they are paying to the important task of driving. Good driving commands attention to the road, to peripheral vision and to assessment of risks while driving. You cannot simultaneously think about the cars waiting to make a left turn at the light and think about texting "ROFL" to your "BFF".

Are Bans Enforceable?

A law that is not enforced is less than useless. Would pulling over everyone with a cell phone be possible or practical? There are already laws in many locales that prohibit texting while driving, but law enforcement can only know such a law was truly violated by looking at phone records after the fact. Catching someone in the act with your own two eyes is not easy.


Talk About It

Do you know someone who has been hurt by a distracted driver?

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Is There a Better Way?

An Alternative that Would Work

I believe a better alternative is to deal with dangerous drivers severely on the occasion of their first auto accident. Cell phone records that prove the driver was texting at the time of an accident would be prima facie evidence of reckless driving--an offense that means automatic license suspension in most states. Of course, people do drive while their licenses are suspended or revoked. Alcoholics and illegal aliens often drive without a valid operator's license. The solution to this problem is to institute mandatory jail time for driving without a license following a previous moving violation.

By putting teeth into existing laws, we would raise the price of driving like an idiot. When the price of something goes up, we tend to see people think more before acting. Instituting a "stupid tax" * on foolish drivers would mean less stupidity.

* Acknowledgement to Dave Ramsey for introducing me to the concept of "stupid tax"

References:

News story: http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/breaking/chi-ntsb-recommends-ban-on-all-driver-cell-phone-use-even-handsfree-20111213,0,5207833.story

Info on multitasking: http://www.bukisa.com/articles/507625_multitasking-versus-concentration


People who cause accidents while texting should be

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    • kschimmel profile imageAUTHOR

      Kimberly Schimmel 

      8 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      A friend told me yesterday that a driver on the interstate (!) had slowed to 30mph in the middle lane and was texting. All the time my friend watched her she did not look up at the road. Ask someone in the car with you to call HP when you see these dangerous fools on the road.

    • kschimmel profile imageAUTHOR

      Kimberly Schimmel 

      9 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      I have to wonder how this constant attachment to a cell phone is affecting people's brain function--especially the still-developing teen brain. As people stupidly risk their lives driving while impaired by a cell phone, are they also making themselves even more stupid?

    • profile image

      Rhian 

      9 years ago

      I hope people will get serious with this because they just take the caution for granted. Especially in gasoline station that it is prohibited to use cellphone to avoid explosion but still people ignored it. http://www.cpr-cypress.com

    • kschimmel profile imageAUTHOR

      Kimberly Schimmel 

      9 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      New link to WSJ article on attention.

    • kschimmel profile imageAUTHOR

      Kimberly Schimmel 

      9 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      Funny story: My friend has a hearing assistance dog who alerts whenever one of the students' phones goes off in class. I'll be they thought they could get away with a lot if the professor is deaf, but not so--BUSTED! Serves them right for being rude in class.

    • kschimmel profile imageAUTHOR

      Kimberly Schimmel 

      9 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      Yes, I once drove past somebody with an open textbook on top of their steering wheel. Nothing surprises me anymore, except to be amazed that more of us haven't been killed.

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 

      9 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      I believe it all comes down to the fact that people have forgotten they are behind the wheel of a 6000-1000 pound bullet. Both hands need to be on the wheel at all times. I saw an article that people are using their laptops and Ipads while driving now. A man passed me on the Interstate and he had a newspaper spread open across the steering wheel! It is all out of control and people are dying because of it. Steep fines need to be strictly enforced. I am talking STEEP.

    • kschimmel profile imageAUTHOR

      Kimberly Schimmel 

      9 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      Yes, I'm sure lawyers would come up with all sorts of excuses for why Junior had to text while driving into a school bus and killing people. The parents would blame the school bus for existing, the phone for being defective, etc.

    • point2make profile image

      point2make 

      9 years ago

      Legislating common sense is, of course, impossible so the idea of harsh punishment for those that are stupid enough to text while driving is probably the best way to proceed. Of course such laws would have to overcome expensive defense lawyers, lenient judges, irresponsible parents, and a large segment of society that believes the rules and laws are for the other guy not them. It should prove interesting.

    • kschimmel profile imageAUTHOR

      Kimberly Schimmel 

      9 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      Yes, I don't think talking while driving is a problem. It is the texting and sharing pictures and looking at facebook while driving.

      Rather than ban phones, just come down hard on anyone who drives recklessly. Most of us have the sense to deal with an emergency voice message, but we need to nail the people who never take their eyes off the stinking screen while endangering us all.

    • profile image

      Rodney 

      9 years ago

      Kim,

      When I drive more than short errands, I use a Bluetooth just to answer a call. Rarely will I make a call and when I do, it is always while I am stopped. With our parents declining health and cell phones only, this is our means to stay in touch with family and doctors.

      Kim never answers her cell when driving and only when she has stopped will she see her call log.

      I think those of us that are responsible as to cell use while driving, will be wrongly prosecuted.

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