Cell Phone Bans Considered Harmful

Cell Phone Bans Considered Harmful

Here’s the inspiration for this post:


I was going to comment until I realized that it was turning into a post in its own right!

Basically, I am against cell phone bans for several reasons.

The first is because I don’t think that a ban would actually help make the roads safer. People will still text, but they will do so secretly which might actually INCREASE accidents slightly.

Actually not using a cell phone would make the roads safer, but a ban is not always the same as magically changing the values of all motorists.

Second, cell phones are not the problem–distraction is.

I really don’t see much difference between a motorist talking to a friend who is sitting next to her and one who is on the phone. Other distractions include the radio. I do suggest that one is safer when not listening to the car radio while driving. But most of us would not suggest making radios illegal in cars.

I have even heard that differing music causes differing rates of accidents with “Ride of the Valkyries” as the most dangerous song. 🙂 *

Also, changing the channel of a car radio takes one’s eyes from the road.

Similarly, a motorist can be similarly distracted while turning around to check on their child who is in a car seat. If the child were allowed to ride up front, they might be less of a distraction. Sure, car seats save lives, but I am pointing out that there are few safety measures that have NO drawbacks at all.

Would we ban all children riding in automobiles? This would save many, many lives, but again, I am not seriously proposing this because I think that it’s absurd. Similarly, I feel a cell phone ban is also absurd.

It’s not just about safety, but about utility.

And I’m not just defending a motorist’s legal right to multi-task, as deadly as it is. I would like to decide, for myself, whether I can call someone while riding my bicycle or even listen to head phones. Usually, the answer is “no”, but isn’t it up to me?

Also, I’d like to add that there are positive reasons for using cell phones such as calling 911 to phone in accidents and crimes. I would not want these to be unreported just because a motorist is afraid of a ticket.

Incidentally, in San Diego, accidents are usually over reported which is why 911 is supposed to be all but useless especially on the freeway. Better response, I heard, is gotten by knowing, also, your local police station number so program that into your cell phone.*

Worse of all, though, is that a cell phone is a convenient distraction from the fact that our attitude towards motoring is totally off. Our built environment is too auto-centric which hurts enjoyment of the outdoors and cycling, divides up neighborhoods, steals money from the poor and gives it to oil companies, and kills us both quickly through accidents and slowly though chronic illness. Blaming a cell phone is a total waste of time as it takes us away from the bigger issues which is how our built environment is fostering alienation and oil dependence. If we had a safer built environment, collisions would be less deadly, and cell phone use would not be seen as big of a threat as it is now in our fast paced, high stakes transportation system which gives us the death penalty for a simple, normal human error.

In summary, a cell phone ban is only popular because cell phones are new. Other types of bans which can save more lives are seen as absurd, as they should be. Similarly, a cell phone ban is also absurd. A ban will not deliver on its promise of reducing collisions, but it will strip away benefits and comfort that we are accustomed to for no good reason.

* I know I had a lot of rumors for sources here. Being a fun, personal blog and not a serious news site, that’s how I roll. I just hope that these colorful “facts” don’t get in the way of the main point.


2 Responses to “Cell Phone Bans Considered Harmful”

  1. Steve A Says:

    Interesting. Right before I read this, I made a post about the cell phone as a cycling safety aid..

    • Fred Says:

      I totally agree. W/ cell phone cameras and quick phone calls, you’d think that roadway bullying can be dealt with. I have to thank the San Diego police who are incrementally getting better and better at this.

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