A slippery slope

Get ready to fork over 100 bucks if you get caught using your hand-held cell phone while driving in New York state. Gov. George Pataki signed a law banning the use of hand-held cell phones while driving – except in the case of an emergency. New York is the first state to pass such a law.

“It’s about time,” you might be saying. “I’m sick and tired of those *#!?*#? cell phone-gabbing four-wheelers almost running me off the road!”

If that’s how you feel, you’re not alone. Eighty-five percent of New York residents surveyed favor the law. But in reality, cell phones contributed to only 1.5 percent of the 284,000 crashes caused by driver distractions, according to a study by the American Automobile Association.

With improved highway safety as the goal, the New York law should also ban:

  • Reading billboards (29.4 percent of drivers were distracted by something outside their vehicle, according to the AAA study).

  • Eating your morning doughnut and cup of Joe (eating and drinking distracted 1.7 percent).

  • Arguing with your co-driver (10.8 percent were distracted by talking with other occupants).

  • Switching radio stations because you just can’t listen to another Billy Ray Cyrus song (11.4 percent).

  • Being comfortable (adjusting the AC or heater distracted 2.8 percent).
  • That’s right. For such a law to improve safety, it would have to make reckless or careless driving caused by all types of distractions illegal. But wait a minute. Aren’t there already laws against reckless driving, whether it’s caused by putting on makeup, petting your dog or talking on a cell phone?

    Rather than add more laws, why don’t we enforce those we already have? If you’re responsible enough to drive safely while sipping a cup of coffee or making a cell phone call, should that right be taken away because of a few irresponsible people?

    Passing more and more laws that infringe on what citizens can do in their own vehicles is a slippery slope. Once we start sliding, it’s nearly impossible to climb back up.

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