The readers who think that I'm so liberal on all issues that I make Karl Marx look like a Republican may be surprised to hear this, but I'm wholeheartedly opposed to legislation that would make it illegal to use a cell phone while driving.
Yes, texting while driving is a bad idea -- and I've done it plenty -- but the act of talking on a phone and driving a car simultaneously should not be made a crime.
Can it be a little distracting? Yes. But here's what else is distracting while driving:
- Talking to or being talked to be a passenger
- Listening to music or talk radio
- Drinking a soda or a cup of coffee
- Shifting a stick shift
- Looking at billboards
- Using a GPS
- Fiddling with the air conditioner
I've done all of the above, and I'm proud to report that I've never caused an accident.
You know what else I've tried? Using a Bluetooth headset or speakerphone to carry on a conversation, and I can report that it's far more distracting that holding a phone up to your left ear. There's something about shouting into thin air that's unnatural and weird, and I can unequivocally admit that I drive worse when yapping hands-free.
Frankly, driving solo is the only time these days that I have the peace, quiet and freedom to carry on a long overdue personal and private conversation. My short commute has become my personal sanctum, especially considering I don't even really have cell phone coverage in my own home. Honestly, I frequently leave the radio off in the car, preferring peace and quiet and a short call to play catch up over the blaring background noise.
Talking and driving is about personal responsibility. If I was a crappy driver when using my phone, I wouldn't do it. But if a law if going to prohibit me from exercising my own judgment, then it had better look at all the other distractions present to drivers.
And now, the government is "tackling" the issue with a two-day summit held by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
"This is not dissimilar to solving the problem of drunk driving," LaHood told NPR today. "Public awareness is not at the level that it should be. Hopefully, our summit begins that process."
I'm not an expert, but I'd say that neither talking on the phone nor texting is anything like drunk driving.
That said, I'm fine with drawing the line at texting. We're all guilty of texting way too much, in all the wrong places. I may be especially guilty, since long-time readers know my hatred of voicemail. I wholeheartedly endorse pulling over, and I understand why 18 states and the District of Columbia passed laws against texting while driving.
What I don't support is the law that six states plus D.C. have implemented against talking on the phone without a hands-free device. I'm glad that Wisconsin isn't among the states banning it -- yet.
"Drivers always think they are not the problem," said Bill Horrey, a research scientist with the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, also on NPR.
"Research here and other places shows that people are very poorly calibrated to their own level of performance, and historically, drivers have always exhibited overconfidence in their skills," Horrey said.
I disagree. Unfortunately, some distractions are just part of the deal when it comes to operating a motor vehicle, and some of us are perfectly well equipped to handle it.
The problem is it doesn't take long for someone talking on a cell phone (or texting, or scrolling through a contacts list to find a number, etc.) to get into, or cause, an accident. A split second. Nobody who does it expects it to cause a problem. You look down at your phone for one second, and that's when a kid runs out into traffic in front of your car. One's right to talk on a cell phone while driving ends where someone else's right to not get killed or maimed by a person operating a ton-plus moving object begins. Yes, we are overrun by legislation, and much of it is relatively worthless. But the laws that exist to prevent a very real risk of causing serious damage or death to another person are pretty worthwhile, I'd say. This law would not bother me in the least. (And I'm one of those driving cell phone talkers myself, I hate to admit, though I do try to avoid it as much as possible.)
Look on the bright side. A ban on cell phones while driving would pave the way for a big CB radio comeback. That's a big 10-4, good buddy!
I was almost hit twice last night walking home from work by drivers talking on cell phones. I am quite sure they also think they are careful drivers and can talk and drive at the same time. I disagree.
I think that making accidents should be punished by raised insurance premiums or even criminal, anything else (including phone talking, or some alcohol in your blood) should be totally legal and should not be punished. Exception of this rule may be when there's a clear and present hazard as in inability to drive straight or failure to stop at lights or something like that.
I drive a truck M-F, roughly 8am-5pm. I am elevated 4-5 feet above drivers of cars/suvs/minivans and bikes, so I see everything. I see roughly 9 out of every 10 drivers on a cell phone. It's ridiculous! Looking down to dial, text, etc. People sitting at a green light because they're looking at their phone, swerving in and out of their lanes, or just not paying attention at all. There are some people that can handle a TALKING conversation on a cell while driving, but they are few and far between. Texting should be banned in vehicles. It's as bad as drinking and driving.
As for bikes on the road. Yes, you can ride on any road, except an interstate (minimum speed 45 mph, and no non-motorized vehicles allowed.) Too many bikes doing the "Idaho Stop", where if you're at a red light and see no oncoming traffic, you run the red light. Bikes must obey all laws of a car. You cannot run a red light, stop sign, you MUST use hand signals.
People must begin again to respect others and drive like the DOT instructed us when we took our "Temps Test" and Road Test. People, for the most part, don't respect the road and other drivers around them. Use your directionals, keep near the speed limit, no U-turns at intersections, no changing lanes in intersections. You are responsible for anything you hit. If you hit me, I will sue you for EVERTHING you own, and then some.
Maybe the also add legislation to prohibit dbags from talking on Bluetooth's while they're in public as well. Or make it legal to punch them in the mouth, either way.
Show me the other 23 Talkbacks
28 comments about this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Andy Tarnoff
Published Aug. 19, 2015
An unseasonably cool and windy August night didn't stop NEWaukee's Night Market from heating up Wednesday evening. Rather, the crowd bundled up and took in the local vendors, food trucks, dancers and marshmallow making.
Published Aug. 13, 2015
Laura Langemo doesn't take herself too seriously. In fact, the FOX 6 Wakeup News reporter says her goal is to make viewers laugh a little while going through their morning routine, and to that extent, she's willing to try just about anything for a great story.
Published Aug. 12, 2015
The Wisconsin State Fair is great on so many levels, but as an infomercial enthusiast (read: sucker), I have a particular fondness for the zillions of oddball products sold in the Exposition Center. I could spend all day browsing and watching the pitchmen do their thing.
Published Aug. 11, 2015
I was afraid Wisconsin State Fair might sell some "Stars and Bars" stuff this year, but my concerns have been put to rest: according to Kristi Chuckel, Communications and Marketing Manager, you won't find any Confederate flag merch at the fair.
Published July 29, 2015
If you've never heard of floating and sensory deprivation tanks, let us answer this question for you: it's not a form of torture. Rather, some consider it the ultimate form of relaxation, injury recovery and meditation, and it's coming to Milwaukee very soon.
Published July 28, 2015
When you've visited the same place well over 20 times, sometimes you have to look at it a different way. Whether that means taking a bird's eye view from the treetops, or a fisheye perspective from just a atop the water, Wisconsin's crowing jewel that is Door County still looks spectacular from any angle. Even if it's one you have bend a little to see just right.
Published July 15, 2015
Though Liz Lincoln, who writes under the nom de plume of Eliza Madison, just published her first erotic novella, the Milwaukee writer isn't new to penning books about romance. "I've been writing romance forever, really," says Lincoln, who debuted "Fast, Fresh & Hot" this summer on Amazon. " I wrote romance stories when I was in middle school."
Published July 12, 2015
A decade ago, I took a spin around the Milwaukee Mile in a special two-seat IndyCar. I did it again this morning, and it was even better.
Published July 8, 2015
While I only passively care about what happens on the court, I nonetheless passionately, urgently and desperately request Milwaukee and Wisconsin to get its act together and build the Bucks a new arena before it's too late. Just like I preached in the mid '90s when the Brewers were semi-genuinely eying Charlotte as their new home, I'll say it again: Build it now.
Published July 3, 2015
It's a long-standing tradition at Summerfest - and at plenty of other festivals - to use radio station DJs to introduce a headlining band. It may seem like a five-minute formality, but as usual, there's a back story to most of what the public sees while standing on the Summerfest bleachers.