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Should drivers be able to use hand held cell phones at the wheel?

Operating a cell phone is a dangerous distraction, which compromises the safety of motorists, their passengers and other road users. Impulsiveness and accessibility are the only reasons that can be given for it. There is no excuse for taking hands away from the steering wheel to answer or dial up on a mobile phone.

Professional bus and truck drivers have a ringside seat for witnessing the dire consequences of some of the most brain numbing acts by inattentive drivers including breakfast cereal on the highway, map reading with the directory balanced on the steering wheel and of course the lippy and rouge makeover en-route to the office (usually results in a bent bumper and a very red face).

All of these pale to insignificance alongside the deadly cell phone antics. It is bizarre that despite countless threats by the police to penalize by demerit and heavily fine offenders the practice continues. No amount of fatal accidents attributed to this selfish act it seems can deter it. Statistically speaking, those who continue to mindlessly criss-cross traffic at high speed with a phone glued to their ear, will write their own epitaph.

These days, technology enables the cell phone to auto answer or engage a voice mail which on receipt of a message alerts the recipient with an audible tone. If curiosity warrants responding to the call it takes seconds to safely pull over and attend to it. No call is urgent that it justifies risking lives and it is an occupational health and safety hazard that any business can ill afford. Using a hand held phone defies logic when there are so many hands free devices available on the market either designed for in-car installation or a simple wireless device which hangs over the ear. The level of distraction is reduced but not eradicated altogether.

Arguments could be submitted that it is no more of a distraction than the radio or the conversation with the front seat passenger. That may be the case, but the phone by default does not replace the radio, the passenger or even the navigation system. It actually competes against all those elements for the driver’s attention which should be focused solely on the road.

In my home state, cell phone use has been banned even as a hands free device while driving. It must be understood particularly by the indestructible youth that a cell phone is not a fashion statement, but merely another appliance, purportedly to make life easier. Unlike so many others it doesn’t come with a label which reads “Misuse of this product can kill!” It should, because it does!

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