Ban cell phones while driving

By By Kelly O?Neill

By Kelly O?Neill

Most of us have welcomed cell phones as a necessity in our day-to-day lives, but Utah lawmakers are starting to question whether we’ve become too comfortable with our cell phones and the toll it’s taking on road safety.

Earlier this year, the Utah State Legislature banned text messaging while driving, but some officials are looking to take the law further by prohibiting the use of cell phones at all while driving.

There are six states that prohibit drivers from talking on handheld phones while operating a motor vehicle. Rep. Phil Riesen is leading the legislation for the proposed bill to make Utah the seventh. But he wants to go even further by making Utah the first state to restrict drivers from using their hands-free devices on the road as well.

There is a common misconception that driving while talking on a cell phone can be safe it if is done with a hands-free device. But the problem doesn’t lie with the dangers of one-handed driving, it lies with the brain’s multitasking limitations. Although many of us deem ourselves “masters of multitasking” (e.g. I can study for my chemistry exam while watching “The Office”), the brain isn’t designed to successfully execute more than one task at a time, including driving.

A 2003 study at the U described “inattention blindness,” the phenomenon in which motorists look directly at road conditions but don’t really see them because they are distracted by a cell phone conversation.

Motorists’ inabilities to multitask with a cell phone were further examined in a 2006 U study that concluded “the impairments associated with using a cell phone while driving can be as profound as those associated with driving while drunk.”

“It might seem like an innocent act, but it takes lives, and I know firsthand that it can kill,” said Linda Mulkey, founder of Hang Up &- Save a Life, and mother of Lauren Mulkey, who was just 17 years old in 2007 when she was killed in an automobile accident by a driver who ran a red light while using his cell phone.

Many politicians opposed to banning cell phones while driving argue that such a bill would warrant too much government control and do more harm than good.

“In today’s age, people are busier and working, they are conducting business from their home and running from one meeting to another,” said Rep. Carl Wimmer. “There are so many things that people use their cell phones for, and sometimes they need to make a quick call while driving.”

“Living in a free society means there are certain risks,” Wimmer said. “The government has the ability to make people safe from almost anything, but in order to do so, they would have to enslave the entire population and take away their liberty.”

If personal liberty is really more important than public safety, why don’t we allow drunken drivers to use the roads freely and go unpunished? The answer is obvious8212;it’s too dangerous. If studies have shown that drivers on their cell phones are equally as dangerous as drunk drivers, what are we waiting for when it comes to regulating this deadly habit?

“People know it’s dangerous, but they still do it,” Mulkey said. “But if the bill passes, people might say, “Not only is it dangerous, but it’s illegal.’ It might not stop everyone, but it will stop some people.”

Attention must be paid to our personal driving habits and how they affect the safety of others. A law banning cell phone use while driving is not a matter of personal freedom, it is a matter of public safety. When lives are at stake, your phone call can wait.

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