The National Safety Council recently announced its support for a total ban on cell phone use while driving, saying the practice is clearly dangerous and leads to fatalities.
Such a ban would have the dubious distinction of being a good law that would be almost impossible to enforce. Driving while talking on a cell phone has become such a widespread phenomenon that getting people to comply would be difficult.
That hasn't stopped a number of states from trying to regulate the use of cell phones in cars. Six states ban hand-held cell phone use while driving.
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia restrict cell phone use by novice drivers. Seven states ban texting by all drivers, and nine states ban texting by novice drivers.
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These restrictions make sense, especially restrictions on young drivers who are especially vulnerable to distractions. No one should ever attempt to text while driving.
Advocates of talking on cell-phones while driving can point to other common distractions that could be equally dangerous. It no doubt also is hazardous to change a CD, drink coffee, apply makeup or eat a hamburger while driving.
But cell phone use surely ranks at the top of the dangerous distraction list. While people no doubt are aware of the risk, millions of them phone and drive, anyway.
Why? For one, because it's convenient. If you need to communicate with someone while you're on the road -- and there are ample reasons why you would -- the cell phone is your best friend.
We suspect, however, that it's as much as pleasure as a need for many. If you're stuck in traffic, why not take the opportunity to chat with a friend on the cell?
But the National Safety Council doesn't take such a benign view of this habit. The agency equates talking on the cell phone to drunken driving.
"When our friends have been drinking, we take the care keys away," said Janet Froetscher, the group's president and chief executive. "It's time to take the cell phone away."
Froetscher said the council examined more than 50 scientific studies before reaching its decision. She added that hands-free cell phones are just as risky as hand-held phones.
"It's not just what you're doing with your hands -- it's that your head is in the conversation, and so your eyes are not on the road," she said.
Maybe so, but we suspect most people who phone and drive think they are different and perfectly capable of doing both things at once. They're the ones you see weaving along the road or running red lights while they are busy yacking on the phone.
We could support a state ban on the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. The public eventually might come to accept the wisdom of such a law.
But that process could take a long time. Meanwhile, many people will be dead set against giving up phone privileges while driving.
Perhaps the emphasis should be on the word "dead."
While using cell phones while driving is dangerous, public might not accept ban.