Time to make cell phone use illegal while driving

The National Safety Council advocates a total ban on all cell-phone use while driving. Further, a study by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis estimated that 6 percent of vehicle crashes, causing 2,600 deaths and 12,000 serious injuries a year, are attributable to cell-phone use.

As a daily commuter, I often find myself, through no fault of my own, placed in life-threatening situations resulting from some cell-telephone user’s inattention to the task at hand. Since my safety, and that of my fellow travelers, depends upon other drivers’ concentration and consideration, it is clearly time for appropriate legislative action to end this very real and, unfortunately, increasingly common menace.

For those who have not had the displeasure of personal experience with the cellular challenged, here are a few examples from my life on the road.

To wit: A woman, apparently using only pressure from the tops of her upper thighs to steer an enormous, multi-ton, gas-guzzling road behemoth, engaged in an intense conversation on her cell phone held in one hand while peering in her rearview mirror and applying mascara with her other hand. Did I mention that she was drifting in and out of the passing lane, doing 40 miles an hour, with a long line of frustrated drivers stuck behind her?

Then there is the salesman, going 20 miles over the speed limit, with his cell-phone tucked between his chin and his shoulder while writing in a large, three-ring notebook propped on his steering wheel and obscuring his view of the brake lights suddenly glowing directly in front of him.

Or how about the cell chatterer who doesn’t seem to understand the basic courtesy and law involved in merging or exiting? Specifically, the creature who, without any warning, and apparently carrying on her cell conversation without a comma, suddenly veered in front of my car without a by-your-leave or, most importantly, a turn signal advertising her intention before the fact.

Which brings us to the off-kilter-baseball-cap-bedecked youth in the souped up, sub-compact with the big woofers and shiny chrome rims, traveling at near the speed of sound, recklessly weaving his way between lanes and moving his eyes from the road to his lap while text messaging some clearly critical communique during the traffic-choked daily pilgrimage into Providence, R.I.

While there are certainly more than a few folks out there who are capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time, I don’t believe the same may be said for those who can drive responsibly while talking or texting on a hand-held cell phone.

So, consider this a petition to our elected representatives to follow the enlightened lead of their peers in other states, including Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Utah, California and Washington, and improve our chances of traveling our highways and byways alive and unscathed.

(Frederick D. Massie is a writer and editor.)