Cell Phones and Driving


Fourteen hours of my fall break was spent in the car with my friend Carly.  Of those fourteen hours, do you want to know how many of them were spent talking to Carly?  Fourteen.  Yup- I spent the entire car ride talking with Carly.  So the question is- How is that any different than if I was talking on the phone for those hours?  I am distracted in both cases, so why is one situation ok, while the other isn’t?As time passes, more and more laws are passed regarding phone use and driving.  As of October of 2012, here are the general laws:

  • Handheld Cell Phone Use: 10 states, D.C., Guam and the Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving. Except for Maryland and West Virginia (until July 2013), all laws are primary enforcement—an officer may cite a driver for using a handheld cell phone without any other traffic offense taking place.
  • All Cell Phone Use: No state bans all cell phone use for all drivers, but many prohibit use by certain subsets:
    • 32 states and D.C. ban all cell phone use by novice drivers.
    • School bus drivers in 19 states and D.C. may not use a cell phone when passengers are present.
  • Text Messaging: 39 states, D.C., Guam and the Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers. All but 4 have primary enforcement.
    • An additional 5 states prohibit text messaging by novice drivers.
    • 3 states restrict school bus drivers from texting.
  • Some states such as Maine, N.H. and Utah treat cell phone use as part of a broader distracted driving issue. In Utah, cellphone use is an offense only if a driver also commits another moving violation (other than speeding).

For more information, click here.

Of these aforementioned laws, there are two that I find unfair.  First, I think it is unfair that it is illegal in 10 states to use handheld phones.  Second, it is unfair that these laws are all primary enforcement.

In my opinion, distraction is distraction, whether is be a passenger in the car, fiddling with the radio, or the use of a cell phone.  These types of distractions should therefore all be treated the same.  We can’t attack one type of distraction, while ignoring the rest.  If people want to pass laws regarding safe driving, then they should combat distracted driving as a whole.

Although I do disagree with some of the laws, there are others that I agree with.  For example, I think it is fair to make a distinction between the types of drivers- novice, bus drivers, truck drivers, etc.  In the case of novice drivers, they should definitely be paying 100% while driving, since they typically suck at driving.  And for bus drivers and truck drivers, they are on the job and should be paying attention to their work and not their personal matters.

One last thing I want to make note of- If you’re going to enforce a law about phone use, then how about making it the same for every state.  How on earth is someone expected to know the cell phone law for each state?  Even if someone was being responsible and tried to look it up on their phone, they could get in trouble.  That just doesn’t seem very fair to me…

But as my dad always preaches, “life isn’t fair”.

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4 thoughts on “Cell Phones and Driving

  1. Although I agree that in most cases it should be the driver’s responsibility to decide to talk on the phone while driving, I understand why primary enforcement can be necessary in some situations. With regards to the states having their own laws, this is the case for any law that relates to the safety of its citizens. The only reason all of the states agree that 21 years should be the minimum age to drink alcohol was due to pressure from the federal government with their 1984 law which would reduce the highway money grants for non-agreeing states by 10%. Does something like this need to be passed for cell phones and driving?

  2. I agree with you in that banning cellphones while driving creates a slippery slope. What’s stopping states from banning eating, looking for stuff in your back seat, changing the radio station, reprimanding your kids, shaving, reading, putting on makeup or any other obscure activity that could be considered distracting. While the object of the law is safety, I think it is a little absurd that as cognitive beings we aren’t allowed to recognize potential dangers for ourselves.

  3. I could be wrong, but drivers can still be on the phone as long as they are using a hands-free device. I do agree with the law banning texting and talking on the phone. I think many people become too distracted while driving which puts everyone around them in danger. While it is true that we should be able to recognize dangerous activities on our own, many people think that getting in an accident will never happen to them.

  4. I think the law is very abstract when it comes to “using cell phone”. Only 10 states and D.C prohibit holding phone while driving while 32 states prohibit all cell phone use. I totally agree with you that all the states should adopt the same policy. Now it sounds like a driver can hold the phone at one state and need to do texting in the other, and still that distract the driver. And most phones come with GPS today; so, how would you distinguish using a cell phone and using a GPS?

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