Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Hands-Free, With A Twist

In an effort to help ensure the safety of it's millions of drivers (rather than keeping some of them off the street), California has been the latest state to enact legislation that bars the use of cell phones by motorist while driving. Spend any amount of time on the roadways of this great state and you will soon realize why getting people to put their phones down is a good idea. You would think a law such as this would be simple: the only permitted use of a cell phone is with a "hands-free" device (such as a wired ear piece or bluetooth), with the exception of an emergency (re: life threatening) situation. Alas, things are never that simple, and California's new law is a prime example of how loopholes can make any legislation utterly worthless. Here are a couple examples:

- Speakerphones are permissible, but the use of a headsets push-to talk feature is not. Both require you to hold the headset. Both require the same amount of distraction.

- Dialing is not prohibited. Just like speakerphones, one must physically handle the headset. This time, they get the added bonus of utilizing visual confirmation of textile inputs while hurtling down the freeway in 2000+ pounds of steel at 75 mph.

- Text messaging is not prohibited, only strongly cautioned against. This has to be the pinnacle of bureaucratic bullshit personified in this state. It is not illegal to engage in probably the most distracting form of communication possible on a cell phone, but you can still be pulled over and cited if a law enforcement official feels you were sufficiently distracted.

Add to this the non-homogeneous enforcement by law enforcement officials, and you have a complete waste of time. If states were serious about curbing cell phone related accidents, they would ban ALL cell phone use while operating a vehicle, save for situations of life-threatening emergencies. Unfortunately, no legislature in this country has the balls to step and put their money where their mouth is because they are too busy pandering to the few of us who vote in order to win reelection.

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