Scrapyard: Driving While Talking
The Honolulu City Council and the state Legislature are both considering bills that would outlaw the use of cell phones and other electronic devices while driving (the state’s version applies only to drivers 18 and younger). Should we force drivers to hang up?
Honolulu County Chair of the Libertarian Party of Hawaii
I am not a fan of mobile phone use while driving. I avoid it. Yet there are times, particularly when trying to meet up with someone, or asking for directions, that it is necessary. Ideally these conversations can be concluded during a red-light stop or when one can pull over, but this is not always the case.
Some common-sense-based form of education about potential driving dangers while on a mobile phone might be a good idea. Our City Council doesn’t think so. It prefers to abolish virtually all such phone use in a ploy to appeal to overly fearful people. Just exactly how dangerous is it to use your cell phone while driving? In City Council Bill 4, mobile phone use is included with such things as playing a video game or working on your laptop while driving. They are not at all the same thing. One can at least keep their eyes on the road while on a mobile phone.
The City Council does not concern itself with such distinctions that may be essential to evaluating risk, but apparently are not relevant to the political advantage seen in this bill. They will be surprised to find that, as with the infamous van cams, criminalizing the behavior of hundreds of thousands of drivers, most of whom will never have an accident due to cell phone use, may not be well received. It is not like text messaging, which only a few drivers do. In a democracy, elected officials should not so blithely ignore what the majority has shown by their behavior they believe to be an acceptable activity.
Some will always say preventing any accidents is worth inconveniencing hundreds of thousands of drivers. It is not. If it were, the government should pass a law abolishing motor vehicles all together.
Director of the State Department of Transportation
Passing legislation that prohibits the use of cell phones and other distracting electronic devices while driving will save lives, and ensure that Hawaii’s drivers develop better driving habits.
Distracted driving is one of the main reasons people get into accidents, and the large number of people driving while on the phone or text messaging is making our roads less than safe. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for example, has released data showing that distracted drivers are 50 percent more likely to be seriously injured or killed in crashes compared to attentive drivers.
It’s true that there are existing laws against erratic driving, but we need legislation to make it explicitly clear to the public what types of activities are acceptable and what types are not, to highlight the importance of traffic safety. A law specifically prohibiting electronic devices while driving would also provide our law enforcement officers more effective tools to help keep our streets accident-free. We’re hoping to act more preventatively, to stop an unsafe driver before he or she starts weaving across lanes.
I think that once people know and understand that there is a law against something, they will tend to obey that law, so we’re just hoping to make this clear, by doing a lot of public outreach. Laws such as this are specifically meant to save lives.
We want to do everything we can to change drivers’ behavior and decisions. It comes down to realizing that when you get behind the wheel, you are putting other people’s lives at stake, not just your own. It’s just intuitive that using a cell phone is a distraction, and anyone who is not focusing fully on driving is putting themselves and others at risk. There’s just too much at stake.