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Conflicting signals over banning cell phones

Seeing as how cell phones are the predominant item on this year’s Christmas wish lists around my house, I thought now would be an appropriate time to consider the federal government’s push to have the states enact laws prohibiting all cell phone use in cars.

Those of you who are used to reading my rants (if there are any of you left) will expect me to jump atop my soap box and begin condemning the idea as yet another intrusion by government into our lives.

But I’m not sure this doesn’t have some merit, at least in principle. I just have no idea how it would be enforced, especially after dark. This is a tough one to be sure.

Those who oppose the ban, which would include hands-free devices specifically designed to reduce distractions while talking on cell phones, argue that if there’s going to be a ban on cell phone use as a distraction, then there should also be a ban on car radios, cup holders and ash trays in cars, as tuning a radio, reaching for a drink and smoking are also distractions.

They are even quick to point out that the simple act of having a conversation with a passenger is just as much of a distraction as having that same conversation with a person over a cell phone.

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I can’t say I disagree, but the greenies in this country would love to make us all drive cars that are so small that they only have room for a single occupant the size of Tattoo from "Fantasy Island," so I suppose we could count them as proponents of such a law.

There is also the argument that says having the pleasant sounding woman on your phone’s GPS guiding you to your destination is much less distracting than fumbling with a map while you’re trying to get where you’re going; another solid argument for the critics.

And let’s face it, police have on-board computers, and I see them using their cell phones all the time. Will they be held to the same standard? The answer to that may be that they need them for their jobs, but the critics would answer that sales people do too.

Proponents of a universal ban on cell phone use by drivers argue, for starters, that if you’re talking to a passenger in your car, that person is another set of eyes on the road, where a person on the other end of a cell phone can’t offer that benefit.

And according to the Mower County Safe Communities Coalition, current distracted driving laws, including a ban on texting, have led to a 35 percent reduction in accidents caused by distracted drivers. If those figures are accurate that certainly sounds like a step in the right direction.

While I am 100 percent in favor of the ban on texting while driving, I’m finding it difficult to come out on one side or the other of an all-en compassing cell phone ban. There are very good arguments in both directions.

I guess this whole thing is going to come down to personal preference. Those who want to use their phones will, and those who don’t won’t. But I believe this will become law eventually. Another revenue stream would be too hard for states to pass up these days, and that’s really what this boils down to — another tax.

The truth is not much more than 10 years ago we didn’t even know we couldn’t live without our cell phones in our cars. Now most of us are convinced we can’t, especially those who have grown up with cell phones and don’t remember life before them.

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I do remember life before the cell phone, and I understand the reasoning for such a law and will preach it to my kids should it be enacted.

Still, I can’t promise I’ll practice what I preach when my phone starts ringing.

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