Sunday, January 1, 2012

Cellphone Use While Driving

It looks like the citizens of South Dakota will see a bill in the 2012 Legislature banning texting while driving and/or banning cellphone use while driving. I have to admit that when texting first became available, I texted while driving. I do not text while driving anymore and haven't for quite a long time. I have scared myself silly too many times to continue to do it.

I do not support the whole cellphone use ban, however. I know that probably sounds like a wishy washy stance that doesn't make sense, but at least when a person is talking on their phone, their eyes are not down looking at their phone. I have hands link free system tied to bluetooth in my van that makes it pretty darn easy to answer the cellphone if it rings. The button to answer it is right on the steering wheel. My eyes stay on the road and my hands are on the steering wheel.

The article in the ARGUS LEADER was interesting and in-depth in its coverage of the possibility of a cellphone ban in the Legislature this year. Both Sheriff Milstead and Police Chief Barthel make a lot sense regarding this issue. I would think law enforcement professionals should weigh in heavily on the issue when it comes before the legislature and they should be listened to as the experts. The careless driving statute covers it and enforcing such a law is nigh onto impossible. However, clearer heads have not been the norm with legislators in Pierre.

If the legislators in Pierre want to ban cellphone use, then they should also include banning such activities such as turning your head to talk to your child or other person in the car, putting in a CD, changing the radio station, eating food in the car, putting on your lipstick, blowing your nose, sneezing where you momentarily shut your eyes, drinking coffee or pop, or looking at the person in the car next to you picking his nose. Really, how ridiculous a list do you want to make it?

From a state which has always been about personal freedoms, this is a curious stance. But then why should it surprise anyone considering what the legislature did about the abortion issue last year which will end up costing the taxpayers millions of dollars.

It will be interesting to see what develops regarding this topic in the 2012 Legislature. I say no to legislation on this issue. I agree with the Sheriff and the Police Chief. Why create a law you can't enforce when there is already a law on the books to cover it?


  1. I completely agree with one caveat, new drivers under the age of 18 should be restricted from talking on cellphones. Give them a chance to learn to concentrate on the road without any electronic distraction.

  2. How will they enforce that? Require teenagers to post their birth certificates on their car windows so they know how old they are? There needs to be some just plain old common sense in legislation. As Jen says, listen to the law enforcement experts in this matter.

  3. Jennifer I agree. Even with the States that have banned cellphone use, you constantly see people on their phones. It's just darn hard to police; that goes for the U.S. & here in the U.K. Texting, now I'm all over that for banning, but again, horribly difficult to enforce. More often now when you see folks driving erratically, you notice they are texting. Use to be always due to drinking, not anymore. I would like to see a ban on holding a cell phone while driving. I realise that built-in bluetooth systems are not obtainable by all financially, but earphones are pretty darn cheap. All in all, you're right, it all boils down to common sense, which is a rare commodity these days.

  4. No-hands phones are still a problem. It's not where your hands are; it's where your brain is. The research shows that even when you are talking on the hands-free unit, you are still just as likely to cause an accident as the person holding a phone to his/her ear. And talking on the phone is a greater risk than talking to a passenger, because the passenger is in the same place, also sensing your motion, glancing out the window, able to adjust the conversation as hazards approach. Common sense and science both should tell you to shut off your phone while driving, period. Talk or drive. Make your choice. Stop risking my life just because you think you're a great multitasker.

    Now, enforcement of a no-phone-while-driving statute is complicated. If you want to allow cops to pull over calling drivers under existing distracted driving statutes, that's fine with me. It's not hard to see who's on the phone: when I walk or bike through Spearfish, I regularly see a bunch of folks on the phone, and I regularly signal my recognition of their dangerous behavior. (Of course, they generally don't notice, because they're paying too much attention to the phone.)

    But the fact that a law would be hard to enforce does not mean the law is a bad idea. We need to do more to establish the same stigma around distract-phone-driving as we did around drunk driving. Are there still lots of boozers behind the wheel? Sure. But that doesn't mean we legalize DUI.

    How about this enforcement measure: don't make cell-hone driving a primary-stop issue. But if you are involved in an accident, the police automatically subpoena your cell phone records. Not the content, just whether or not your phone was active. If your phone was active, you lose your license. Deal?

  5. This here is a common problem all over the world. Authorities everywhere are trying to raise awareness among drivers that texting or talking on the cellphone when driving isn't an option. A lot of incidents occurred because of such careless drivers, although they could have been avoided in the first place. It's unfortunate that the statistics regarding these incidents keep increasing.