The enlightened state of Washington is about to pass a measure outlawing the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. As a local paper reported, the offense is punishable with a $101 fine, and would be a secondary traffic infraction which means that the driver would have to be pulled over for something else. I think this means that if a policeman observes a person driving down the road with a cell phone up to his ear, the officer would have to desperately look for another more serious infraction to legally pull the miscreant over. Perhaps the laudable officers of Fife, Washington could give the other police officers pointers since they are so skilled at pulling drivers over for trivial violations (See December post: Fife, the City that Sold it’s Soul to the Devil).
As this paper says, this ban is long overdue. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that drivers quadruple their chances of being in an accident when they use their cell phones. The surprising thing shown by this study is that this accident rate holds whether the drivers HOLD their phones or use HANDS FREE DEVICES! The legislature decided to only address hand-held phones because police officers wouldn’t be able to tell whether or not the person was using a hands-free phone.
I was filled with astonishment as I read this article! SURELY, the officers could be able in some way to detect that drivers were using a hands-free phone. I thought that perhaps they could use binoculars to see if a person’s lips were moving IN THE ABSENCE OF ANY PASSENGERS! Then another thought occurred to me.
If the accident rate was the same for people talking on hands-free phones as it was for phones that they had to hold, then what exactly WAS the common factor that could be causing the increase in accidents? It couldn’t be the fact that the drivers were only using one hand on the steering wheel while their other hand held the phone since the accident rate was the same for hands-free phones. After a short period of cogitation on this, I realized in a sudden flash of inspiration that it was the ACT OF TALKING! The act of talking was causing a fourfold increase in accidents. This leads me to urge our prescient legislature to extend this ban! PROHIBIT ALL TALKING IN CARS!