Cell Phones and Driving: Unsafe at Any Speed

I've been saying it for a long time: cell phones and driving do not mix. The evidence grows daily. Some moron train operator in Boston decides to text his girlfriend while operating a passenger train, injures dozens of people, and causes US$9 million in damage -- to say nothing of the damage to the lives of the injured. It should be obvious that driving anything while distracted is a bad idea. Common sense should indeed be more common. And, while the cellular industry has paid lip service to this issue, they've not done enough, perhaps because so doing might impact their bottom line. Hey, I'll be the first to agree that capitalism has its virtues, but not if innocent people are injured or killed in the process.

So, while it's been obvious for some time to many (I can't be the only one here) that something needs to be done, even I was shocked to learn yesterday that the federal government has had proof of the relationship between cell phones and "accidents" for a very long time, but, obviously for political reasons, sat on this evidence. Check out this article in the venerable New York Times. In research dating from 2002 (!), it was reported that "The highway safety researchers estimated that cellphone use by drivers caused around 955 fatalities and 240,000 accidents over all in 2002."

This is of course, again to many of us, a big (but very, very sad) duh. I have for as long as I can remember advocated "driving while distracted" laws, which, again, I think, would simply codify common sense. But maybe it is finally time to ban cell phone use while operating a motor vehicle. Period. As the bumper sticker says, drive now, talk later. Want to talk now? Pull over. Simple.

I know many will find this an inconvenience. I know the cellular operators will raise perhaps even a libertarian argument, which holds real appeal to me. But liberty cannot exist without responsibility, and our first responsibility must always be to the health and safety of our fellow residents of this planet. Again, period.

This story, "Cell Phones and Driving: Unsafe at Any Speed" was originally published by Network World.

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