Should Be Against the Law: Texting Behind the Wheel Is a No-No
Oprah Winfrey recently -proposed that all of us agree not to use our cell phones while driving for one whole day.
Come on, Oprah. I have been a fan of yours for many years. But "one day"? How about 365 days?
Let's face it. Of all the stupid things drivers have done through the years, texting on a cell phone while operating a car vaults to the head of the list. Talking on one while behind the wheel comes in a close second. It's right in there with -driving drunk.
It baffles me to read that some states are deliberating banning texting while -driving. What's to deliberate? It should not take more than a -nano-second of discussion to pass that law. Fortunately, North Carolina has already done so. But in a state where driving without your seat belt on gets you a ticket and a fine, why are we dragging our feet on banishing planting that cell phone in your ear while driving?
A hands-free cell phone came with my car from OnStar. I think of it as an insurance policy. In an emergency, I can hit a button and call for assistance. But that's what it should be: an emergency tool. The discussion about what Aunt Maizie was wearing at the dance last night can wait until the car is parked.
You know how you can tell a drunk driver. He weaves slightly and speeds up and then slows down for no apparent reason. He almost stops when passing an intersection. He thinks he is in complete control and would argue vehemently that he knows when he's had enough and he can hold it. Sure. When I spot one of these drunken dunces, I give him a wide berth. His reflexes are slow, and he will panic in an emergency. Beware.
The cell-phone-in-the-ear driver follows a similar pattern. I followed a woman from Southern Pines to Pinehurst on Morganton Road who did all the things I wrote about the drunk driver as we inched toward our destination in a no-passing situation. You could see the phone held up to her ear.
At least she was not texting. But this long conversation was clearly not an emergency. And don't think I'm singling out women. The idiot I had followed the previous day was a man.
We've all heard the loud blatting on the cell phone while shopping. But at least that boring blather is not life-threatening. Not so the long conversations conducted while driving. That is not only inconsiderate of other drivers; it is dangerous and has caused more than a few fatal accidents.
A Texan named Jennifer Smith heads up a group called FocusDriven, which advocates cell-free driving. She got involved after her mother was killed in an accident caused by a young man running a red light while on his cell phone. Imagine how Jennifer Smith feels today, Mother's Day.
Today's people are accustomed to multi-tasking and thus can be excused for thinking they can hold a phone to their ear while driving and still maintain full attention to what the car is doing, what traffic there is, what signals there are, etc.
The facts dispute this theory. The cell phone, whether used for talking or texting, is a distraction that can easily lead to catastrophe. Except in a rare emergency, any need for it can easily be -accomplished before you shift into Drive or after you come to a full stop.
As a conservative, I am for -limited government and maximum individual freedom. Nonetheless, some laws and many regulations are necessary for the maintenance of that freedom. The First Amendment still does not permit yelling "Fire!" in a crowded -theater. The cell phone is a great device that unfetters us from housebound communication. Nonetheless it is also a prime -candidate for misuse that can and has led to unnecessary fatalities.
It should be banned from use while driving. By law.
Allan Jefferys, a former New York theater critic and newsman, lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at email@example.com.
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