I'll admit it up front: I don't drive that much relative to most adult Americans with jobs. I'm lucky enough to live a short bike ride away from my office, and a stone's throw from public transportation to said office (or into San Francisco, not to mention several blocks' worth of excellent eating, drinking, shopping, and time-wasting options.
That being said, I really think that cell phones are just about the worst thing to happen to our roads since Hummers. If I had a nickel for every time I've been held up, cut off, or almost hit by a zoned-out driver with a cellie glued to his/her ear, I'd have a big ol' pile of nickels. I understand that heavy traffic, increasingly demanding jobs and, well, the boredom of sitting still in your car makes it tempting to reach for that phone ... but, please, if you must talk and drive, get yourself a handsfree device.
While I'm still on my soapbox, I've got a mixed-feelings tip of the hat to Arnold Schwartzenegger, the Governor of my home state of California. The Governator recently signed a new law prohibiting 16- and 17-year old drivers from using cell phones (and other electronic devices) while behind the wheel. The ban includes hands-free devices, actually. More than a dozen states have enacted similar bans to date.
Excellent. New drivers + teenagers + driving while SMSing = A bad scene. But why stop there? I honestly can't see how a 24, 37, or 55 year-old trying to drive and tap-out a text message at the same time can be that much safer than a 17 year-old doing it. Talking on a hands-free is one thing, but texting requires both of your eyes and at least one of your hands be diverted from the road.
I'm clearly a proponent of technology and altogether a member of our hyper-connected world. But there's no way it should be legal to read and write text messages while driving a car. First of all, as boring as driving must be to folks who have to commute through rush hour every day, a split-second's worth of distraction behind the wheel can result in death. Literally. And second, if you're waiting for a message important enough to warrant your immediate attention, you surely can pull off the road to read it.
Really, is a text message worth risking your life over? Whatever your answer, I know it's not worth your risking my life over. Don't text and drive.
NPR story on California ban of teen texting.