Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Good ban in the works

Our community is cursed with a plethora of nonsensical and self-defeating bans. It is comforting that a good ban is in the works, but it is coming from the secular world and not from our community. I will hazard a guess that many in our community will protest loudly against the proposal of the National Safety Council to ban the use of cell phones by drivers. A number of states including New York have enacted bans on hand-held cell phones, but allow the use of hands-free phones. In New York City this law is poorly enforced, and even better enforcement would not solve the problem. The problem is not the driver's hands; it's her head. A driver talking on the phone is a distracted driver who is not paying attention to the road. Studies have shown that her risk of crashing is comparable to that of a drunk driver. It is only recently that we have really gotten tough on drunks behind the wheel, but many lives have already been saved.
Note my tongue-in-cheek use of the feminine pronoun generically. I was in a car once that nearly crashed because the driver was talking to another lady about the latter's new baby. Her mind was not on the road. At the time I thought that the Saudis were onto something; they do not allow women to drive. Now I know that the problem cuts across the board. It's not just women's idle chitchat; it's also men full of their own self-importance who have the wherewithal to vigorously resist any attempt to encroach on their deadly privilege. I'll grant that cell-phone conversations in cars sometimes really are important: the Chief of Neurosurgery taking a call from his resident about a difficult case, for instance. But I submit that that is just too bad. If your call is so all-fired important that it cannot wait for you to pull over to the side of the road, then hire a chauffeur. You have no business behind the wheel. You're probably not concentrating on your driving even without the phone to distract you. Given my libertarian bent, I am sensitive to nanny-state concerns, but drunk, drugged or distracted drivers endanger not only themselves. They are a menace to their passengers and anybody else with the misfortune to be sharing the road in the immediate vicinity. Thank you, National Safety Council. Consciousness has to be raised and laws have to be passed. No talking on the phone while driving except to call 911, Hatzala or the like. The lives we save may be our own.



Blogger BrooklynWolf said...

How is a driver talking on the phone (assuming that they are using a hands-free model phone) substantially different than talking to another passenger in the car? Or listening to the radio or a CD?

The Wolf

Wed Jan 14, 03:22:00 PM EST  
Blogger Zev Stern said...

Listening to the radio or CD is more passive and doesn't hijack the parts of the brain (visual-spatial? I'm not an expert here) that are needed for driving. Perhaps people talking on the phone imagine the person they're talking to in front of them, and people talking to passengers don't. Personally I refrain from talking to the driver when I'm in a car, and most of us know better than to talk to a bus driver when the bus is in motion. At any rate, studies have shown that talking on the phone is much riskier than talking to passengers. Eventually we will know why. Answers raising more questions are what keep scientists in business. If we wait till all the answers are in before we address what we know is a grave (pardon the pun) problem, a lot of people will die unnecessarily.

Thu Jan 15, 01:43:00 PM EST  

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