Editor Speaks Out: State ban on cell phone use while driving is a good step

Allison Corneau

With a new statewide ban on cell phone use while driving taking effect last weekend, Connecticut is urging drivers to remain safety conscious and hang up when driving. Those found using their phones without a hands-free device can be fined $100, but when offenders get plucked off the road for speeding violations, law enforcement officials are now able to cite them for any distraction that impairs their driving ability, including eating, typing on a BlackBerry, or putting on makeup. Connecticut is the latest state to enforce the policy, first enacted in New York four years ago. Since then, 22 states and the nation’s capital have required drivers to modify their cell phone use in the name of safety.

Lawmakers are steering our state in a great new direction with the recent law, but it would be even more effective if cell phone use would be banned altogether on the road. I understand that for those in the sales profession, this idea may sound ludicrous, since much of their workday is spent traveling and conducting business over the phone, but for safety’s sake, and for general piece of mind, ditching the phones altogether may not be a bad idea.

I have to tip my hat to those who have the superhuman ability to turn their car into a virtual office or beauty parlor while driving. But for the rest of us who bear witness to their poor driving habits – is swerving into the next lane really worth it to get your lipstick perfectly applied? It sure gets annoying when you realize the dangerous driver in front of you indeed has a cell phone glued to their ear.

It’s bad enough that cell phone use is equally excessive when not on the road. In shopping malls, supermarkets and even libraries, patrons speak on their cell phones without having the least bit of common courtesy for those around them. No, I don’t really care if you need to debate with your roommate over which party to attend this Friday while I’m studying in the next cubicle over from you at the library, or decide to have a lengthy chat with your mother while in front of me in the supermarket check-out line.

People, at the very least, should be able to resist using their phones for the duration of their road travel, unless in cases of extreme emergency. Our world today is so fast-paced and technology laden, don’t you feel the least bit of a tech overload? Driving should offer a break from business or extemporaneous personal calls, and allow drivers to focus on what’s really important: the road ahead.

At the heart of the new law is safety, but I’ll be the first to argue that, while it may help some drivers get the point about proper driving practices, it is not necessarily the best answer. Carrying on a conversation, whether by way of hand-held cell phone or a hands free device, is just as dangerous and distracting. Here’s hoping that a healthy number of the fines handed out are given to drivers who are distracted on the road for any reason, not just as a result of talking without a hands-free device.

So if you can’t resist the urge to talk on your phone during your commute, please take all others on the road into consideration and do it safely. Your wallet and fellow drivers will thank you.