I submit a simple moral principle for your consideration. A person who poses an avoidable and unnecessary threat of harm to innocent people should take steps promptly to end the threat.
If you embrace this principle but you use a cellphone while driving, you should stop doing so because cell phones distract drivers and significantly increase the likelihood of accidents. This is clear from the extensive laboratory and road research on drivers and cellphones which was reported this summer in a series of articles in The New York Times. (1) Here are some of the revelations in the series:
One of the ironies surrounding the use of cellphones while driving is that a high percentage of the very same people who acknowledge that using cellphones while driving is dangerous admit that they continue to do so anyhow. This includes people who caused accidents in the past because they were distracted by their cellphones. (2)
Despite the proven dangers of cellphone usage by drivers, there is no imminent prospect of legal reform. Cellphones are so popular that legislators are reluctant to take a stand for safety over convenience. This year one-hundred seventy bills restricting cellphone usage while driving were introduced in the various states but only ten were adopted. One reason for this is that legislators themselves typically use cellphones while driving. Another is that the cellphone industry lobbies effectively against bans. Moreover, where there are legal restrictions, enforcement is usually lax; for instance, taxi drivers in New York City largely ignore the cityâ€™s ten-year old ban on the use of cellphones by cabbies and usually the police don't interfere. (3)
So, be proactive. Protect yourself, your passengers, and other drivers. Pull over to a safe spot before you use your cellphone. It is the responsible thing to do. If you wait for government to cower you into doing so, you may wait a long, long time. Meanwhile, thousands of people will suffer or die needlessly. And you or a loved one could be one of them!
© 2009 Tom Shipka
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