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FIRST-PERSON: If cell phones are to be banned, what about other ‘reckless’ habits?

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–A wise man once said, “The law is the last resort of human wisdom acting upon human experience for the benefit of the public.” However, too many laws written too specifically are neither wise nor beneficial.

Thankfully, many lawmakers across the United States are taking heed to the aforementioned words of wisdom, especially in respect to the use of cellular phones in automobiles. According to a USA TODAY report, prospects are dim that any state will adopt legislation completely banning the use of cell phones in a motor vehicle. One possible exception might be New York which has had such bills introduced since 1996. Currently, the Empire State’s lawmakers are considering a ban on phones of the handheld variety.

A law targeting cell phone usage is not necessary. Every state in America already has an existing law regulating a driver’s conduct. If a law enforcement officer believes a motorist to be operating a vehicle in an unsafe manner, a citation for reckless or unsafe driving can be issued. It does not matter the cause for the hazardous operation.

The jury is still out as to whether cell phone use is a major contributing factor to motor vehicle accidents. According to one state’s records, a cellular phone ban is unwarranted. Oregon Department of Transportation statistics reveal that from 1996 to 1999 cell phone use contributed to only 185 accidents out of a total of 200,000. Compared to the number of accidents caused by alcohol or speeding the number is relatively small.

There is no doubt that some people do become distracted while simultaneously trying to drive and talk on a cell phone. However, there are reasons other than cellular phone usage that can lead to reckless driving. If a cell phone specific ban is enacted by any state, what’s next?

— The application of facial makeup, especially if it results in the excessive use of mascara.

— The shaving of one’s face. The fine to be doubled if the instrument used is other than an electric razor.

— An attempt to rapidly change the frequency on a car radio so as to avoid listening to Howard Stern or any station specializing in rap music.

— The unfolding of, and/or refolding of, and/or the scrutinizing of a travel map.

— Eating and/or drinking — anything!

These activities probably are more prevalent on roadways throughout the United States on any given day. Each can cause a driver to operate his or her vehicle in an unsafe manner. There is no need to pass a specific law for each action because one exists that deals with the possible result of each.

The laws pertaining to reckless or unsafe driving already in existence throughout the United States are specific enough to define the unsafe practice and vague enough to apply to a variety of violations. They are both wise and beneficial. Rigorous enforcement of current laws is more prudent than creating a whole new category of violations.
Boggs is pastor of Valley Baptist Church, McMinnville, Ore.

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  • Kelly Boggs