The Maryland General Assembly passed a bill this week which would make talking on a handheld cellphone while driving a vehicle a primary offense. If the bill is signed by Governor O’Malley, as expected, a police officer would be able to pull a driver over under this bill for talking on a handheld while their vehicle is in motion. The bill would allow you that quick phone call at a stop light and you can still use your GPS on your phone.
A first handheld offense would be punishable by a fine up to $75 fine. A second offense could be $125, and a third could be $175. A fourth offense? Geez, do we need to even figure that out? I think if you drive through the city screaming “Hey, look, no seat belt” you still are probably not going to get charged with this three times.
This is the progression of things. It is easier to pass the bill as a secondary offense and then bump it up in a few years. We are sheep and accept change a little better that way.
The problem is that there is data that suggests that it’s not the holding of the phone, but the distraction in general that causes more accidents. It may be that it is not so much where your hands are when you are driving – not many of us are in a 10-2 position anyway – but where your mind is.
So should we eliminate talking on the phone while driving? Honestly, we probably should. I talk on the phone constantly when I’m driving but never with my kids in the car. But there is zero – absolutely zero – inertia to ban cell phone use while driving because the real problem we are fighting is not driving and talking about driving and being distracted at all. Everyone turns a blind eye to these statistics because we believe what we want to believe and we don’t want to give it up. Ironically, there is just one group that sees it my way: insurance companies. To use a 2104 reference, it is like us fighting ISIS which aligns us nicely with the Syrian government who we nearly bombed just a year or so ago.
The Libertarians scream why not ban people from changing the radio station while driving. First, stop screaming again. You guys are always screaming. Second, why not? While the car is moving is not a great time to be changing the radio station.
But moreover, it is just a matter of degree. I know there is a slippery slope but life is lead on a slippery slope. We can have a police without being a police state and we can draw the line cleaning in between talking on the phone while driving and changing the radio station while driving.
Marylanders young and old are dying on our roads from distracted driving. They don’t upset us too much because they are theoretical and abstract. I hope it stays that way for me and you. Because some people are not so blessed.