Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Last year, the City of Chicago banned the use of hand-held cellular telephones, but I don't get the feeling the law has been very effective. People continue to dial and drive on a daily basis pretty much everywhere I go. I must admit, I'm guilty of it myself - although I prefer to use the handy speakerphone feature on my Q so that my hands are free to do other things. I won't appall you with the gripping details.

I do have to say, while their intentions were good, drafting and passing a law they hadn't the means to enforce was a waste of time and taxpayer money. And in my less-than-humble opinion, they failed to address the REAL problem, which was not the phone, but rather the distracted driver.

For example, on my way in to the office this morning I observed a danger far greater than the cellphone gabber: the mobile make-up studio. In my short 12-minute commute down LaSalle Street, I saw no fewer than a dozen women in their cars applying cosmetic products of some kind WHILE DRIVING - a practice that not only requires at least one hand off the wheel, but also both eyes off the road. How is chatting on the phone any more dangerous than applying mascara and lip-liner while listening to Eric & Kathy on the Mix? I'm not saying we need to ban cosmetic commuting, or that talking on a cell phone while driving isn't a big deal - I would just like to see a little more thought and consistency from the folks making the rules instead of cherrypicking hot topics to address.

In the case of the cell phone, it's not the phone that causes accidents - it's the distracted driver. Banning the use of the cell phone doesn't prevent the driver from becoming distracted by other things. Like taking off your suit jacket while driving. Doing a sudoku puzzle. Adding sugar to your McDonald's coffee. Turning around to crack the kids in the mouth. Putting hot sauce on your Beef Meximelt. There are plenty of legal activities that distract us while driving. Singling out one lends the illusion that politicians are protecting us from harm, when they're really just protecting their jobs.

The goal here is safer roads. Why should there have to be laws itemizing all activities deemed unsafe while operating a motor vehicle? Can't there be a single law that says the driver must refrain from any activities that divert attention from the act of driving? Such a sweeping edict might irk a lot of multi-tasking commuters, but if safer roads are what we're going for, wouldn't it be better than a handful of capricious laws banning arbitrary activities? Driving is a privilege, remember...not a right. That's the first thing they teach you in Driver's Education, and the first thing everybody forgets.

If we're so interested in making the roads safer, why stop at cell phones? Why not ban smoking while driving? Dropping a cellphone in your lap seems a little less likely to cause an accident than dropping a half-smoked Marlboro. Why not ban changing CDs? It diverts your eyes from the road longer than it takes to quick dial yout friend on the phone. And applying make-up directly competes with the act of driving for visual attention. By the logic invoked in a ban on cellphones, laws prohibiting these other activities would also make the roads safer - would they not? So where do we draw the line?

Safer roads are the result of increased awareness and greater responsibility on the part of the operator. But people are people, and laws are sometimes required to legislate what should be common sense. I know that I am in constant violation of the of rules of common sense. Don't stick that knife in the toaster. Don't microwave tin foil. Don't drink that expired milk. Don't leave your apartment unlocked. But such violations are primarily threats to MY well being, not the well being of others, which is why the law leaves me alone. It's those behaviors that are dangerous to others that we feel compelled to control. And so I relent that it is probably a good idea that there are laws prohibiting certain behaviors, such as the use of hand-held mobile phones, while driving.

I just wish we could be a little more thorough if we're going to tackle safer roads, because Maybelline application at 45 miles an hour frightens me a lot more than the bloke conducting business from the comfort of his Beamer.


Sheila K said...

Motorola Q...got one too. Love it or hate it? Did you do Bluetooth "Borg" ear piece?

AYNtK said...

Love the Q, hate the battery life. It doesn't last nearly as long as the in-store information said it would. Even at moderate use (a couple of calls, couple of text messages, etc.) I find it completely drains itself in about 8 hours. So it's almost always tethered to either a wall power supply, car cord, or USB port - which kind of defeats the purpose of being "wireless."

But the rest of the features rock. Love its slimness and operation. Camera takes decent photos. Having e-mails pushed to the phone is sweet. Synchs up wirelessly to my laptop (haven't figured out why that's a good thing yet, but sounds cool). And yes, I do have a Bluetooth, which works great when driving (or doing the dishes).