Dying to Take That Call?

December 14, 2011

Political Theory


On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board, a federal agency, called for states to put an a ban on all cell phone use in automobiles.  Although several states currently have forbidden the explicit use of headsets while driving, none currently have a universal prohibition on cell phone use.

According to Deborah Hersman, chairman of the NTSB, drivers are still distracted regardless of whether or not they have an actual device in their hands.  She does not believe that handsfree or integrated systems are the solution to the problem.  By her standards, the use of cellular devices–handsfree or otherwise–impairs individuals just as much as drunken driving or driving while smoking.  However, she and State Senator Joe Simitian of California, another supporter of the ban, agree that the restriction will probably not be passed in any state during their lifetimes.  Currently, the NTSB’s message only serves as a call to action; the organization is simply encouraging states to enact such a ban.  The states are still free to act however they please.

As much (or as little, as mean) as I use my phone (in a safe manner, of course) while driving, I am in total support for such a ban.  In my opinion, it is very clear that talking or texting while driving can be extremely distracting and can lead to possible accident or injury. In a perfect world, I would have had congress pass the ban as federal law.  While general public opinion would be probably be very much against such a measure–a fact that the NTSB acknowledged in the NY Times article–I think that it would have been in the best interest of the people.

Such a law would align with the principles of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.  According to Rousseau in his work, The Basic Political Writings, mankind originally found itself in a state of nature that it could not maintain.  In order to escape from this state of nature and preserve themselves, individuals entered into a “social compact” with one another to form a governing entity that can maintain their welfare.  However, citizens must give up some of their rights if they wish to maintain this social contract.  The NTSB views on individual and societal welfare align with Rousseau’s principles.  While we probably wouldn’t be very happy with a ban on cell phone use while driving, the NTSB believes that we would all stand to gain on an individual and collective level from the safer driving conditions that would come as a result.  With the institution of such a ban, less accidents and fatalities would likely occur, making roads safer for everyone.  Even though some of us may consider the cell phone use an inalienable right, we would each stand to gain if it were sacrificed.

What do you guys think?  Would you support a universal ban on cell phone use in the car?  Even if it isn’t practical, do you agree in principle with such a ban?

Just as an illustration, below is an infographic explaining some of the effects of cell phone use while driving (click on the image in order to view a higher resolution file).


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8 Comments on “Dying to Take That Call?”

  1. andgoldberg Says:

    I would agree to a cell phone ban while driving only under certain circumstances. I think people should only be allowed to use their phones if they are using bluetooth or a talk-to-text service. Bluetooth technology allows people to speak on the telephone without affecting their driving. Completely limiting talking on the phone while driving would be a bit ambitious especially if the driver had to make a call in case of an emergency. I do have to agree that cell phone use while driving is way too prevalent in our society today, but our government much approach the issue in the right way. Freedom of speech and bluetooth’s ability to keep driving safe are two strong arguments against completely banning cell phone use in cars.

  2. nozomigg Says:

    I completely agree with this universal ban on cell phone usage, even though I use my cell phone quite frequently in the car as well (probably just as safely as you). Rousseu believed in the good of the people as a whole, even if it meant giving up a few rights. Considering how little of importance phone usage usually holds when it’s done in a vehicle, it shouldn’t be a hard thing to give up with the knowledge that it could potentially save lives.
    The only problem with such a ban is that it would be very difficult to enforce. As a matter of fact, banning cell phone usage while driving might even be worse for the community. Even with a ban, drivers will probably continue using their cell phones. Banning it will just cause an extra distraction because they will have to focus on trying to hide it as well; I think everyone can agree that driving with your phone up near your face, where you can still somewhat see the road, is much safer than driving with your phone down near your lap because you’re trying to hide it.

  3. marydahm08 Says:

    I agree that the ban would be extremely difficult to enforce. However, I also believe that it would be worth it to try. Countless accidents are the result of cell phone usage while driving, and there is no doubt that it would be in the interest of the common good to eliminate car accidents. Although, yes, it would not be convenient for us, being a part of society requires making some sacrifices for the benefit of others.

    I know from experience that talking on a cell phone is far different from having a conversation with someone who is sitting in the car. Many people argue that it is not, but being on a cell phone makes you less aware of your immediate surroundings. It would be great if we could find a way to make an exception for emergencies, but other than that there is no reason to be on the phone while driving.

  4. schoiidaho Says:

    I am also in full support of this ban of talking on cell phones while driving, including the use of hands-free devices and bluetooth. It is true that sometimes we have to receive urgent or important calls, but this will cause even more distraction and make an accident even more likely. Rousseau believed in utilitarianism, where each individual has to give up certain freedom for the greater good for the whole society, and the ban of cell phone use will do exactly this.
    Driving is a privilege we all take for granted, but we have to keep in mind that we share the road with everyone, and everyone has the right to be on it. We have to aware of our surroundings at all times and make sure to respect the safety of everyone. Talking on the phone distracts us from the road and can lead to deadly consequences. The author mentions driving while using the phone is as dangerous as driving drunk; we do not endorse drunk driving, driving on cell phone is no different. If we crash by ourselves, we have no one to blame but ourselves, but it would not be fair for an innocent victim to suffer because of a choice we made while fully aware of the consequences.
    However, I do agree as well that it will be almost impossible to enforce. Bluetooth devices and headphones are almost invisible, and people can just hide the phones when they spot police. And also, if they do happen to be caught, they will probably be let off with a little fine.

  5. Michael Zanger Says:

    There should absolutely be a universal ban on driving and texting. Too many rovers on Mars threaten the lives of developing organisms by texting and driving. As well as those on Earth. Students crossing State St. and S. University while drivers just pass through, turning and staring at their phones. In addition, I also see students texting and walking across the intersection causing problems for oncoming drivers making their way through the intersection. Ann Arbor has been enforcing tickets to drivers who do not stop for, not only those walking through the intersection, but pedestrians approaching the crosswalks. Should the driver receive a ticket for a student who was stupid enough to text and walk without watching?

    • kirtip Says:

      In this situation, the driver is still to blame. First of all, a driver texting is a much greater offense than a pedestrian texting. However, in this situation the driver was not texting but simply approaching an intersection. There has recently been a nation wide push to protect pedestrians near sidewalks. As you said, in Ann Arbor they have ticketed people for not stopping when a pedestrian is approaching the intersection. Thus, it is the driver’s responsibility, not the pedestrians, to make sure there is no one in or approaching an intersection when they drive through. Texting or not, the pedestrian has the right of way and the driver has the responsibility of constantly being on guard to make sure there are no pedestrians nearby.

  6. lmaren Says:

    Americans are too distracted in general and we try to do too much at once. Texting and driving is dangerous and I would agree that there should be a ban on texting and driving. I am from Utah, and texting while driving there is a crime. You can, in theory, be arrested. They are really cracking down on people. However, I think that speaker phones and the internal phone speaker systems that are installed into newer cars are a great idea. I don’t see how that could be as distracting as texting. We are allowed to talk when we are driving- that is all speakers phones are. It is a hard situation because many people resist any change because they are so busy in their own lives. But, I think that a change would be for the greater good.

  7. pelarkin Says:

    While I do think that holding a cell phone or texting and driving is a dangerous thing to do, I am not in favor of a total cell phone ban while in cars, for a few reasons. Like I said, I am already in favor of banning drivers from talking on their cell phone without a headset while driving, because this is an incredibly dangerous thing to do. Driving with one hand is hard enough, focusing on the other person talking just adds to the dangerousness of the act. I try and avoid talking on my cell phone while in my car as much as I can, but, at times, you have to answer, which is understandable. However, I do not see why a total and complete cell phone ban should be enacted. Manufacturers have spent years upon years of their time to create hands free devices that make the roads safer for everyone. While talking to another person while driving is certainly distracting, I don’t think the benefit of making headsets illegal would offset the loss of people talking while driving. If I had to guess, I would bet that people talk on their cell phones most while in the car, especially when they are sitting in traffic and have nothing better to do.

    While the use of cell phones while driving is incredibly dangerous, and I fell awful for all those that have lost family members due to people not paying attention on the roads, I do not think that a complete cell phone ban should be enacted any time soon. I do think that talking on a cell phone should not be allowed if it is without a headset, a total ban, at least at this point in time, in my opinion, is infeasible and should not happen.

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