Shut up and drive


This week Oregon lawmakers are voting on whether or not to ban talking on a handheld cell phone and text messaging while driving. If it passes, we will be the sixth state in the United States to pass such a prohibition. Bluetooth headsets or other hands-free devices would still be legal.

Statistics make it difficult to deny that banning cell phones while driving would save lives.

According to the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, cell phone distraction causes 2,600 deaths and 330,000 injuries in the United States every year.

A study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Motorists found that motorists who use cell phones while driving are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves.

Edgar Snyder and Associates, a law firm representing injured people, reports that studies have found that texting while driving causes a 400 percent increase in time spent with eyes off the road.

Even without statistics, just by scanning the daily news articles, there seems to be a steady increase of car accidents caused by a driver being distracted on a cell phone.

Cell phones aren’t the only things that hamper drivers’ safety. An old coworker of mine likes to read paperback books while driving. I’ve seen people brushing their teeth, opening their car door at lights to spit their paste onto the asphalt. Some drivers are busy fighting with pets or children rather than paying attention to the road. There are myriad other driver distractions. Yet cell phones are being singled out because they are growing increasingly prevalent each day.

Oregon’s economy is currently one of the worst in the United States. Lawmakers should be concentrating on brainstorming new ideas to help guide us out of this recession. Yet, instead, they must deal with passing laws that should be common sense to most citizens.

Many of us drive almost every day. As a result, driving seems as harmless and habitual as taking a shower or riding a bicycle. It’s easy to forget that we are operating dangerous machinery at high speeds that can be fatal to ourselves and to others. It’s our responsibility as drivers to be as safe as possible. There are already too many memorials lining our streets where motorists killed bicyclists or pedestrians.

Law books are becoming cluttered with decrees that should not need to be voted on. Children need to wear helmets when bicycling. People need to wear seatbelts when driving. These laws have saved countless lives since they’ve been enacted. Still, no one should have had to mandate these requirements for us to put our safety first.

The banning of cell phones while driving, if it passes, will not only save our lives and our children’s, but other lives as well.

We as people need to become more responsible for not jeopardizing our own or anyone else’s safety as much as reasonable. If we make the effort ourselves to be more self-managing, perhaps the government wouldn’t need to trifle over micromanaging laws that make them seem like Big Brother.

Instead, they’d have more time to deal with the larger issues at hand that cannot be so easily fixed on an individual level: education, employment, tax relief, homelessness and other topics worthy of lawmaking.


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