Cell-phone drivers just asking for new laws to be enacted

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Cruising down the street the other day, we saw a car ahead, sitting at the stop sign of a cross street, apparently waiting for us to pass.

As we got closer, a young boy, perhaps 11 years old, rolled past the other car on his bicycle and out into the street into our path. Fortunately there was time to avoid striking him, but as we got closer, it was easy to see his head cocked to one side, cradling a cell phone against his shoulder.

Perhaps you've had a similar experience; a car that pulls directly into your path, turns without signaling or swerves into your lane while the driver stares through you. He or she is unaware you're there, concentrating instead on the conversation being carried on wirelessly.

Worse, we've seen drivers, usually college age or younger, balancing a soft drink in one hand while using the thumb on their other to tap out a text message and some other appendage -- a knee, perhaps? -- to drive.

Traffic problems seem to make it worse. We've noticed several close calls associated with cell phones during the time traffic was diverted from Norris Avenue for that asphalt project. Last winter, cell-using drivers narrowly missed collisions during icy conditions which in themselves should have engendered enough caution that trying to take or make a cell phone call should have been the farthest thing from their minds.

What is the answer? Outlawing mobile calling? 

That's one answer, but not one we like. Police officers have better, more important things to do than enforce a ban on using cell phones while driving.

Drivers should be able to be trusted to be responsible enough to tend to the task at hand without being subject to the force of law. They shouldn't have to give up a privilege just because some people abuse it.

But judging from recent experience, if it ever comes to that, they'll have only themselves to blame.

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