Monday, January 24, 2011

Driving Your Car Using a Cell Phone

There’s nothing new about the controversy over using your cell phone while driving your car. It all began with a movement to require you to use a hands-free device so that you didn’t have to hold your phone to your ear while you conversed. Next it evolved to the fact that, hands-free device or not, simply talking on your cell phone is unsafe. Now the big drive is against texting, which is obviously something that requires your hands and eyes.

Now, I fear this thing is about to go “over the top”. It has just been reported (I read it in Automotive News and New York Times) that one of the cellular carriers, T-Mobile, has developed a technology that makes it impossible for you to use your cell phone while driving your car! In fact, they’re selling that app to users for $4.99 per month. Concurrently with this technological breakthrough, Ray LaHood, the chairman of NHTSA (National Highway Transportation Safety Association) is strongly advocating Federal regulation of the use of cell phones in cars. This means that our government, either thorough regulators or the legislature, could require all wireless carriers to make it impossible for you or me to use our cell phones while driving.

Now, I don’t want to turn this blog/column into a political commentary…we have too much of that already. I mentioned this subject on my weekly radio show last Saturday and received some rather strongly worded emails. Here’s an example:

I was listening 1-22-11 to Seaview radio and heard you posing a hypothetical question about the government shutting down cell phones in moving cars. Your wife then asked for comments and gave out the 877 # twice. Being a carefull [sic] driver, I pulled into a parking lot and called immediately but was told there was only a minute left and there was no way I would be able to express my opinion on air! So, you pose a STUPID, PARANOIA-induced question, ask for comments but cut the show off??? Wow! Well. Here's my answer anyhow: STOP trying to scare people about the government possibly doing something unlikely somewhere in the future!!! WHAT is wrong with you? Still upset McCain did not win? Get over it. The government is NOT the evil entity you put forward, sir. The government is We, the People.

Have we reached a point where we can’t be publically critical of our government? I hope not because there are a lot of countries in the world where that is exactly the case and I wouldn’t want to live in Iran or even China.

I’m 70 years old and lived about half of my life without a cell phone. I can tell you that the quality and productivity of my life has increased exponentially as a result of the cell phone, not to mention the smart phone and PC. I accomplish a large amount of work and personal related tasks everyday using my cell phone including the time I spend in my car. I’m a very safe driver, although my wife and my sons will tell you I drive too fast. Ever since the “safe driver” addendum to licenses came out, I’ve had that stamp on my license and I’ve never been involved in a traffic accident.

But forget about my personal experience, the percentage of traffic accidents, injuries and deaths has declined steadily for at least the past 50 years which includes the period of time we’ve had cell phones in our cars. Now I’m not going to argue that we couldn’t reduce accidents even more if we didn’t use our cell phones, but the same principal applies to lot of things we Americans like to do. Between 1919 and 1933 our government made it illegal to make, buy or sell alcohol in the USA. You know how that turned out. The only people who benefited from that moronic experience were guys like Al Capone and Bugsy Siegel. In fact, guys like them are probably already designing something that will override the device that T-Mobile invented to neuter our cell phone while driving.

I would love to hear what readers of this column and blog have to say about their freedom to use their cell phones while driving their cars. And I will close with this personal message to Ray LaHood….”I’ll give you my cell phone when you take it from my cold, dead hands” (For those nut-jobs who may be reading this, I’m just kidding!).

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