Apr 122009
Authors: Alex Stephens, Caleb Thorton

Alex Stephens

Many opponents of the cell phone ban would have you believe that being prohibited from using your cell while driving is a gross infringement on personal liberty — that “big government” is once again attempting to control every miniscule aspect of your life, and that if we ban cell use why not ban all forms of distractions at the wheel, like eating, as well?

The purpose of banning cell use while driving is not a personal safety law, like wearing a seat belt or helmet, but a public safety law meant to keep drivers safe from the carelessness of others.

It’s very similar to the ban on driving while under the influence of alcohol. In fact, numerous studies have proven that the distraction level for the average driver using a cell is that of consuming several alcoholic drinks.

In a perfect society, citizens would have the good sense to self-regulate against doing stupid things. Sadly, we do not live in such a place.

Care to eat, drink and smoke to excess? Fine, that only affects you. But when you’re operating a vehicle capable of maiming and killing humans, you need to do so responsibly. That means keeping distractions to an absolute minimum.

Cell use while driving is a widespread distraction responsible for 2,600 fatalities and 330,000 injuries annually in the U.S., according to www.accidentinfo.com. Is your call important enough to jeopardize the lives of others? Should your personal ‘freedom’ trump the safety of others? No, it shouldn’t.

Caleb Thorton

While I do not have a problem with the government getting involved in individuals’ lives when the public health and safety is at stake, the amount to which the government can do so is and should be limited.

In fact, what concerns me most with this legislation is that it can so easily lead to a slippery slope with government intervention into our everyday lives.

I am not going to argue that talking on your cell phone may impair one’s ability to drive effectively. However, it could also be easily argued that eating, talking with other passengers in the car or even parents dealing with back-seat sibling squabbles could constitute the same type of impairment.

If the government now has the right to regulate talking on cell phones due to issues of public health, then who is to say that it would have no right to restrict the conversations that you may have with a fellow passenger?

Of course, the issue in that hypothetical situation would be enforcement, which brings up another problem with this bill — how is it going to be enforced?

Sure, it is easy enough to say simply that if an officer sees an individual talking on his cell phone, then a ticket would be issued. However, what is to stop an officer of falsely accusing a driver if absolutely no evidence of the offense will be needed?

As a law that is both difficult to enforce and sets a dangerous precedent for government intervention into our personal lives, the cell phone ban simply has too many problems.

Point-Counterpoint appears biweekly Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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