Monday, January 12, 2009

Oh, Just Shut Up!

Going through the headlines this morning it was hard not to notice the war on cell phones by the National Safety Council; my local paper , CNN and Fox covered the issue as if the Twin Towers had been attacked again. I think we’d all like to take at least one shot at the Bozo in the next lane, the one with his/her head tilted toward the center console with a phone wedged in his/her ear in such a manner as to preclude any chance of observing traffic.

“A national safety group is advocating a total ban on cell phone use while driving, saying the practice is clearly dangerous and leads to fatalities.”

What they should have said, “Driving without paying attention is dangerous”, and left it at that. They never mentioned; putting on eye make-up, lip stick or plucking nose hairs, they never brought up the dangers of balancing a check book, watching a DVD monitor built into the sun visor, reading the newspaper or, my favorite, propping your favorite novel on the steering wheel.

I was trapped behind a trail of commuters on a major toll road, creeping along at 45mph in a posted 65mph zone, all because some fellow wanted to read War and Peace. Traffic carefully broached around him, his vehicle mostly staying within the lane markers as he was oblivious to the world around him. Once my vehicle got up even with, “Mr. Inconsiderate”, I honked my horn, just to get his attention, and flipped him off. I’m not sure; but I thought I heard a standing ovation from those behind me as they awaited a chance to complete their own salutation.

“ (Janet) Froetscher said the council examined more than 50 scientific studies before reaching its decision. One was a study by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis that estimates 6 percent of vehicle crashes, causing about 2,600 deaths and 12,000 serious injuries a year, are attributable to cell phone use. Hands-free cell phones are just as risky as hand held phones, she added."

“It’s not just what you're doing with your hands — it’s that your head is in the conversation and so your eyes are not on the road,” Froetscher said.”
I’d like to see the data which backs up the claim, “Hands-free cell phones are just as risky as hand held phones”.

If this is provable, unlikely as it would seem, then the National Safety Council needs to address other issues; talking with passengers, parenting of young children and the worst safety menace of all, listening to the radio, CD player or iPod.

What about short people who give the impression to those behind them, “Hey, there’s nobody driving that vehicle”, shouldn’t they have to sit on a phone book or something? Another pet peeve is the relaxed fellow, you know the one, his free arm laid across the top of the seat back as if he were at home on the sofa watching the Bronco game.

I have one of those ear plug connections to my cell phone so I can keep both hands on the wheel. If a call comes in I can carry on a conversation, not much different than if the person were in the truck with me. When the call becomes involved, a need to write anything, anything at all; I explain that I’m driving and I’ll get back later when I don’t have to worry about having a wreck and making my insurance rates go up.

On the other hand, if I’m on the phone with my folks I tell them, “I’ve got both knees on the steering wheel, just like you taught me.” That gets a rise out of them. I once drove from downtown all the way past the Beltway and the woman in the SUV driving in the next lane was on her cell phone the entire time; how she made it down the road without having a major fender bender remains a mystery, she never once came up for air. I wanted to scream at her, not that it would do any good, “Oh, Just Shut UP!”

I don’t think the Nanny State needs more laws to save us from ourselves, let’s try something novel here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, govern ourselves in such a way as to appear responsible; isn’t that what America is all about?

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