Cell phone ban: What's next? [updated Oct 1, 2009]

My esteemed readers,

I don’t know if you know this or not, based on reading past posts, but I quite enjoy my civil liberties. I like having a driver’s licence, I like being able to walk around town without constantly being watched (except for the areas of downtown London with surveillance cameras), I like that police need probable cause to pull me over or arrest me, etc.

I know what you’re thinking – “Well duh Derek, we all like those parts of living in London/Ontario/Canada.” Indeed, and yet lately the Ontario government, led by Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty, seems to be taking an ever increasing level of control of our lives.

Most recently are two major items of contention – the smoking ban (in vehicles) when children are present and the impending cell phone ban which is now set to come into effect October 26, 2009. The police are going to be on an education and warning campaign for several months though, and won’t start issuing tickets until February 1, 2010.

Disclaimer: I am not a smoker, and I do have a child of my own.

That doesn’t lead me to believe, though, that adults need to be smart enough and care enough about their children not to smoke in their vehicle on their own accord. Having the government legislate against this behaviour impedes on a person’s rights to do what they please without overtly causing any harm. I don’t buy the argument that opening the windows while smoking does not help, and last I heard there were no clinical trials to backup that claim (if you can prove otherwise, please do so).

That issue, unfortunately, is said and done with and I have no great amount of power to change it at the moment. American President Obama has set a good standard by speaking to adults as if they are adults – why can’t we treat our own in this way? “Hey dude, smoking in your car while you have kids in there is a bad idea and here’s why…” should suffice. If that can’t convince them, the solution should not be to simply ban the activity.

226 - Drive to Seattle by eyeliam | Flickr
226 - Drive to Seattle by eyeliam | Flickr

This does, however, bring us to today and the soon-to-be-implemented ban on talking on your cell phone while driving (and holding it). The logic for this ban astounds me – talking on your cell phone (while holding it) is supposedly very distracting, leading to crashes and general mayhem. That’s a bunch of bull. Holding and talking on your cell phone is no less distracting than a number of other things that are currently very legal to do in your vehicle, which I’m going to get to in a moment.

I do want to point out that texting while driving, in my opinion, is very dangerous. This typically requires a person to take their eyes off the road for, perhaps, several seconds at a time. When you consider the statistics on people falling asleep at the wheel for just 2 seconds, it’s easy to make a correlation.

But talking? Nope, I don’t buy it. I know and see hundreds of people everyday that drive with only one hand on the wheel whether they’re on their cell phone or not. What puts them in a situation very comparable to the scenario the government is so afraid of is driving with one hand on the wheel AND talking to a passenger(s). How is this any less distracting than talking on your cell phone, especially if it’s an argument?!

That being said, if the Ontario government (and several other provinces) are going to ban texting and talking on your cell phone while driving (although buying a headset or speakerphone exempts you from the ban), then I propose we ban many other distracting things, such as:

  • Advertisements within 250m of roads
  • Driving around with crying/upset children
  • Attempting to soothe crying/upset children (either verbally or physically) while driving
  • Talking to passengers in your vehicle while driving
  • Listening to the radio/music while driving
  • Eating while driving
  • Putting on makeup while driving (I witness this pretty often)

All of these things distract you at least a tiny bit while driving, although a better way to put that is that they all require one to take some level of concentration away from the act of driving. So they should all be banned, right? If not, then why does the cell phone ban make sense in the first place?