Not normally in favor of legislation which limits our freedom, I find myself in an odd position today, delighted about a new California law banning the use of handheld cellphones when driving taking effect. While many Golden State drivers have learned to operate a motor vehicle while talking on their phones, all too many cannot. Their erratic driving increases traffic for their fellow drivers and threatens the safety of their fellow citizens.
It’s unfortunate that this law will prevent such drivers from using this skill they’ve acquired, allowing them to multi-task on the road. But, having lived in LA now for nearly nine years, I’ve seen the problem getting ever worse over the years, with other drivers, indeed, an increasing number of such drivers talking on their cell phones while slowing down traffic and risking other people’s lives.
And I’m not the only one.
Friends complain about drivers missing lights because they’re chatting away. Just a few weeks ago, I found myself following a pickup truck lumbering along a residential street at about 10-15 MPH. When I finally passed the guy, he was busy talking on his cellphone while barely paying attention to the road.
And there was the woman who couldn’t make a tight enough turn and nearly hit a pedestrian standing on a street corner. (He fortunately had the foresight to step back.) Or another woman who couldn’t control her car as she made a similar turn, nearly hitting a car whose driver (not on the phone as she) has the sense to swerve before she arrived in his lane, weaving all the while.
It would be nice if the state could just use existing laws on distracted driving to cite such individuals. Or perhaps offer a test requiring an individual to show proficiency in driving while on the phone before getting a permit to do so.
Sometimes, however, laws are necessary to promote safety. This, I believe, is one of those times.
I have a similar attitude toward Hate Crimes legislation. When friends learn of my opposition to such legislation, they often tell me such laws are necessary to ensure the safety of gay men and lesbians. In response, I ask for evidence showing that in the absence of such laws, violent crimes against gay people are neither investigated nor prosecuted. Should such evidence exist, I would certainly reconsider my position, provided of course there were evidence such laws promote the prosecution of such crimes in states where they’re already on the books.
That said, it has become evident to this California driver and many of his peers that all too many have shown a careless disregard for their fellow motorists and pedestrian by operating motor vehicles while talking on cell phones. This law may limit our freedom, but seems the only solution to a growing problem in the Golden State.
UPDATE: While driving to a meeting of Outfest Theater Managers on the Valley, I turned from Ventura onto a smaller street and found stuck in the right land behind a sports car going about 10 MPH (the Speed Limit was 35). When I was finally able to pass, I saw that the driver was talking on his cell phone. No longer just a discourteous driver, today he was a lawbreaker.