Commentary: Restricting cellphone use while driving

This editorial appeared in The Charlotte Observer.

There's a pretty good bill pending in the state Senate that would make driving — and riding in cars — a lot safer. Trouble is, it doesn't go far enough. Senators can fix that by expanding a bill to prohibit drivers from sending e-mail and text messages to also restrict drivers' use of phones to hands-free devices.

There's a growing body of evidence that using such electronic devices as mobile phones are too distracting for safe driving. It requires more attention than, say, adjusting the air conditioner or changing channels on a car radio.

These devices require the manipulation of small buttons to dial phone numbers, read and send e-mail messages or read and send short text messages on cell phones. That means taking your eyes off the road. And that's truly dumb.

The bill would not prohibit the use of these devices as long as the user isn't driving the car. If you're a passenger, or if you're the driver and you stop the car while sending or receiving such communications, there's no problem. Smart drivers are always careful to pull over before they pull out the cell phone.

Risky drivers, on the other hand, do all sorts of sketchy things while driving – watch a movie, check their 401K balance, or read a paperback novel. It's especially risky to use a mobile phone without a hands-free device. It's hard to pay adequate attention to potential road hazards while you're hunting for a number to punch.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Charlotte Observer.