June 24, 2018
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Common sense should guide cellphone, driving laws

By Larry Craig, Special to the BDN

We all appreciate the distracted driving statistics highlighting the use of cellphones while operating a vehicle. However, for the National Transportation Safety Board to recommend a total ban of cellphone use in all states, to include hands-free use, is simply premature and unreasonable.

If we include hands-free cellphone use in the definition of distracted driving then we must examine all other forms of distractions. Listening to the radio, conversing with a passenger, the use of CB radios by truck drivers, adjusting the temperature control buttons while a vehicle is in motion and so on.

Many of today’s vehicles are equipped with voice-activated controls that allow an operator to make several cabin adjustments without taking their eyes off the road or hands off the steering wheel. Most of these vehicles have the capability to automatically connect to most cellphones. Thereby, operators can send and receive phone calls by voice command while never even having to look at their cellphones.

This is now a matter of common sense. If your eyes are not drawn away from the task of driving and your hands can remain on the steering wheel while using a cellphone, you are less distracted then you would be by adjusting the cabin temperature.

Not too many can disagree with the statistics of physically messing around with a cellphone while driving. This argument is strictly directed to the “hands-free” use of a cellphone: The same act as conversing with other passengers in a vehicle or conversing with the vehicle itself while going through voice prompts. Technology has even granted us the capability to purchase many add-on accessories to equip our older vehicles with hands-free cellphone interfaces.

Consider this: How many times have you topped a hill or come around a corner and there is a vehicle parked dangerously while they are on a cellphone? Highways and interstates with high-speed traffic flows will find themselves peppered with stopped and converging traffic because they must pull over to use their cellphones. This will create an insanely dangerous scenario as well as highly interfere with traffic flows; again, common sense.

The five members of the NTSB did allow a clause which states that drivers can use their cellphones in emergency situations. If you have a call coming in from a loved one can you take the call to see if it is an emergency? What if you don’t take the call and your child is trying to reach you because of an emergency? If your babysitter calls you do you have to wait until you can pull off the road somewhere? Can’t we be reasonable?

If you want to use your cellphone while driving it must be capable of hands-free use with no other physical interaction other than your voice.

It’s time to send a clear and united message to our representatives that common sense be used when deciding on new laws. Adding language to allow hands-free, voice-prompt use only will be a reasonable solution.

Without this language we must be forced to ban all communication devices including two-way radios. These are the devices used by school bus drivers, truck drivers, police cars, ambulance drivers and the list goes on.

The majority of Americans have cellphones, there are millions of automobiles on the road every day and drivers will be continuously pulling on and off roadways to use their cellphones. This creates dangers and problems beyond our wildest imaginations.

Larry Craig lives in Mapleton.

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