Opinion

Cell phone ban a waste of time

As soon as Gov. Christine Gregoire signs the bill into law, those talking on their handheld cell phones while driving could see a $101 fine.

What about the person wolfing down a burger while trying to drive? Or someone searching around for their lighter to light their cigarette? Or the parent being distracted by a van full of screaming toddlers?

Drivers are faced with a million and one distractions on the road. Now our Legislature has decided to start fining those who are caught chatting it up on their cell phones while driving. It’s just one more fine the state can collect money for, although it’s being played down as a secondary infraction, meaning drivers can only be cited if they’re pulled over for another offense, such as speeding.

There already is a current law that allows drivers to be cited for negligent driving if they are driving dangerously while on their cell phone. Apparently this wasn’t good enough and now the law will include all drivers whether or not they are driving dangerously.

The obvious reason for the bill is driver safety, yet hands-free technology will still be permitted. Having a conversation over the phone is far more distracting than dialing or holding the cell phone. Even with an ear piece, the phone number still has to be dialed. Not only that, but when you’re talking on a cell phone, you’re not fully paying attention to the road, you’re focusing on your conversation and what the person on the other end is saying. What’s the point of banning handheld cell phone use, when the law will still allow you to actually talk on the phone? You may not be holding the phone, but you’re still distracted.

Why are cell phones getting singled out? Is this the beginning of more fines and laws to come, adding more restrictions? It will be against the law to use a handheld cell phone while driving, but you won’t get fined for taking your eyes off the road to change a CD or apply makeup.

The new law would take effect Jan. 1, 2008, and has a few exemptions including emergency workers, tow-truck drivers and motorists calling law enforcement. So if you’re on your cell phone to report another motorist using their cell phone, would it be OK?

Bill supporters are wasting time and taxpayers’ money to support and enact this law when there are far worthier causes to back ... education, domestic violence awareness, substance abuse programs. Pass some of these other bills which are getting no support.

Should this law be passed — and it has a pretty good chance seeing as it has already passed the House and the Senate — Washington will only be the fifth state to impose this new law. California, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have similar restrictions. It doesn’t seem like a top priority for many other states. Washington, however, was ready and willing to get on that restricting handheld cell phone bandwagon — using only hands-free technology of course.

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