Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Car phones... and car phone users: An Unscientific Survey

It is illegal, in Chicago, to drive while holding a cell phone.

This is in the news again here because a Chicago alderman -- who voted for the ordinance banning hand-held cell phone use in cars -- was recently ticketed for violating that ordinance and then, after making another call (presumably not while driving), got his driver's license returned to him, hand delivered by a Chicago policeman.

No special treatment was requested, says the alderman.

Of course not.

Anyway, as I have mentioned previously, and as reinforced by the fabulous photograph in the post below, I have a new cell phone. Not only does it take pictures, but it has a "loudspeaker" mode so that, in theory, I could drive and converse at the same time without violating the Chicago ordinance.

Because no cop is ever going to personally courier my license back to my office should I ever get a ticket.

But, remember, no special treatment was requested, says the alderman.

Are we clear on this yet?

I'm not entirely comfortable with some people using cell phones in their cars at all. Ever.

Ordinance or not, I can't tell you how many times I've seen (and been narrowly missed by) a driver -- chatting away merrily of course -- executing some sort of crazy maneuver that only a stunt driver should attempt.

Are horns honking up ahead? There is some cell phone yakker at the root of it, probably saying to his caller, "Sorry, could you repeat that? Some morons are honking." Is a car swerving? Driving too fast? Driving too slow? At certain times of day, drunk driving may be the primary suspicion -- but at all others you can bet that it's a cell phone user. Sometimes it's probably a drunk driving cell phone user: "No, honestly, I didn't shtop anywhere. Jusht traffic's been bad, zhat's all...."

But, sometimes, cell phones are useful. A quick, reassuring 15 second call: "I'm five minutes away." Or a time-saving 10 second call: "Junior just called home. He's ready to be picked up. Can you get him?"

At this point I am not entirely persuaded that a "loudspeaker" mode -- like the one on my new phone -- is in fact "safer."

It may even be more dangerous: I could place the phone on the seat next to me and chat away, I suppose... until I had to stop for the next light... whereupon the phone would slide off the seat and onto the floor. I could cradle the phone in my lap, but then I'd be talking to my belt buckle or something... and the phone might still slide away.

And you know that there are people out there who will -- heedless of traffic -- reach down to grab the phone as it is sliding or after it slides away. But these are the ones who were swerving while gesturing to their unseen caller with their cell phone at their ear.

See, my theory is that it's not the cell phone which is dangerous in a car. It is, rather, the cell phone user. What do you think?


Anonymous said...

It is distracting to use a mobile phone while driving, I use a remote earpiece which is legal in the UK. But isn't it also distracting to smoke while driving, and also eat? And also shout at the kids and your husband or anyone else?

Jean-Luc Picard said...

It's banned here in Britain as well, but I see many on the phone,but no one to arrest them.

susan said...

I tend to think the problem is the user rather than the equipment. Then again, those flashing blue-tooth headsets can be rather mesmerizing... :)

may said...

illegal here in california too, but i guess the users are too many to arrest.

Linda said...

Illegal here in Connecticut, too, but a lot of people ignore the law like it isn't even there.

I don't think it's safe and it annoys me to no end to see people not paying attention to traffic because they're too busy yakking to someone on their cell. What on earth did people do before cell phones??

Shelby said...

yep the user is it.

after all, it's not the gun that kills, it's the bullet.

Anonymous said...

katherine. said...

actually not illegal in California yet...not until next July...

Amazing Gracie said...

What? And put the blame on the responsible party? Gee whiz. Do you want to start a new trend or something? It's such a novel idea. Personal responsibility...hmmmm.

Patti said...

I'm with Linda. Here in Connecticut I see many drivers yakking it up and not paying attention to their driving. It's so dangerous.