Cell phone ban: How quickly we relinquish our freedom

March 29, 2010

As the all-knowing, all-powerful Maryland legislature prepares to once again take away more freedom from its subjects (citizens), it amazes me how easily that citizenry will relinquish those freedoms time and time again.

This time it's the handheld cell phone ban ("Ending crash calls," March 29). We don't need more laws. If you can't effectively drive while talking on the phone, then don't do it. You and you alone are responsible for knowing your individual limitations and acting accordingly. More laws are not the answer.

The Maryland Transportation Article contains myriad laws under numerous subtitles regarding the operation of motor vehicles, many of which could apply to violations stemming from distracted driving, such as: traffic signs, signals and markings; driving on right side of roadway; overtaking and passing; use of roadway; right-of-way; pedestrians' rights and rules; turning and starting; signals on stopping, turning and starting; special stops required; speed restrictions; and reckless or negligent driving. to name just a few. Most of the violations included in these subtitles carry increased fines and points if those actions contribute to an accident, so how will adding yet another law to the books make our roads any safer?

Police officers are supposedly on the lookout for aggressive drivers. Can they not also be on the lookout for violations that may stem from cell phone distraction and enforce existing laws to correct those actions? After all, if the problem is as rampant as many people claim, officers statewide should be able to write thousands of tickets daily and quickly eliminate Maryland's budget deficit with the proceeds.

Recently one lawmaker remarked how great it will be to ban the handheld cell phone and return drivers to two-hand driving. Really? Do you maintain both hands on the steering wheel at all times when not holding a cell phone? I don't, and I'd be willing to bet that no one does. So I guess the next step will be to outlaw adjusting the radio, climate control, mirrors or anything else that requires removing one hand from the wheel.

What about conversation between driver and passenger? Shouldn't that also be banned as a distraction? Don't think it couldn't happen. Senators already rejected an amendment to the bill that would allow drivers to utilize the cell phone's speaker phone function rather than a headset. So obviously these morons think open conversation inside a car is too distracting, even when the driver cannot see the other person and is therefore not inclined to periodically take his eyes of the road to make eye contact. Where does that leave GM's On-Star system? As the bill stands now that would be outlawed too since it's simply a speaker phone, and they've apparently determined that a speaker physically inside one's ear is less distracting and diminishes the driver's ability to hear horns, sirens, etc. less than does simple, open conversation.

Get ready Maryland for some very boring vehicular travel where it's just the driver's wandering mind and the radio, until they ban those too.

Chris Millirons, Finksburg

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