Honk if You Want to Stamp out Cell Phone Driving

I hope that you're as irritated as I have been about people driving through the streets with one hand on the wheel and the other clutching a cell phone, obviously more preoccupied with their conversations than their driving.

The absurdity of our toleration of this idiocy was driven home to me -- literally -- two days ago. We were driving down a main road in the country and had just reached an intersection with stop signs posted on the side road and stopped cars waiting for us to pass. Suddenly, a white car driving in the opposite direction abruptly turned left, right in front of us. As we crashed into it, I could see that the driver was talking into a cell phone, oblivious to us. His car's momentum threw our car to the right, forcing it into the front end of a stopped van. As the white car spun around and ended in a ditch, I saw with stunned amazement that the driver still had his phone to his ear.

My wife, who had been driving, was strapped to a stretcher by paramedics and taken to an ER in an ambulance. It turned out that, thanks to the steering wheel airbag, she had only minor injuries. But as I waited for the x-rays and EKGs to be interpreted, I realized that if we had reached that intersection half a second earlier, the white car would have crashed into the driver's door, probably killing her. I thought of the thousands of other men who had lost beloved wives or children to these fanatical devotees of the cell-phone god -- as dangerous a bunch of assassins as the thugees of India.

The connection between cell-phone driving (CPD) and accidents has been well established. if you don't believe it, type "cell phone" and "accident" into Google and scan through the 2,000,000 entries you get.

Laws prohibiting drivers from using hand-held cell phones have been passed in over forty countries.  But the United States is not as enlightened as Bahrain or Zimbabwe. Only six states have effective laws banning cell-phone drivers. Thirty-three have no such laws and the rest have weak or limited restrictions. In four states -- Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Oregon -- local governments are actually prohibited by the state from enacting anti-CPD laws.

To make matters worse, the opponents of anti-CPD laws, who have successfully defeated legislation in several states, may manage to overturn the existing laws. Their argument is that other one-hand activities, such as drinking coffee, and other distracting conversations, such as driver-passenger arguments, are universally tolerated. Therefore, they contend that it is impossible to prohibit cell-phone driving without impinging on these other 'rights'. Others argue that such laws are unenforceable, that highway patrolmen are few and far between and much too busy to search for CPDs. 

I therefore propose that, in the true American tradition whenever the lawmakers fail us, we citizens take vigilante action to combat these phonomaniac drivers. I'm not proposing that we carry guns in our cars and shoot any cell-phoning drivers we see. No, tempting as the idea may be, it would probably cause more accidents than it would prevent. My plan is less violent and apparently legal.

Whenever you see a driver with a phone to his ear, honk your horn in two sharp blasts, as if saying "shut up"! If enough drivers do that, most CPDs will probably be embarrassed into putting down their phones. And if everyone does it, the chorus of honks will prevent them from hearing what their phonemates are saying -- which, assuming that they hear all the honking, will hopefully be "hang up, you idiot."

The old slogan, "the life you save may be your own" has become trite with overuse. But it's still true, and never more so than now. Please join me in honking to stamp out CPD. I must admit, however, that my motives in this crusade are quite selfish. I almost lost her.

I hope that you're as irritated as I have been about people driving through the streets with one hand on the wheel and the other clutching a cell phone, obviously more preoccupied with their conversations than their driving.

The absurdity of our toleration of this idiocy was driven home to me -- literally -- two days ago. We were driving down a main road in the country and had just reached an intersection with stop signs posted on the side road and stopped cars waiting for us to pass. Suddenly, a white car driving in the opposite direction abruptly turned left, right in front of us. As we crashed into it, I could see that the driver was talking into a cell phone, oblivious to us. His car's momentum threw our car to the right, forcing it into the front end of a stopped van. As the white car spun around and ended in a ditch, I saw with stunned amazement that the driver still had his phone to his ear.

My wife, who had been driving, was strapped to a stretcher by paramedics and taken to an ER in an ambulance. It turned out that, thanks to the steering wheel airbag, she had only minor injuries. But as I waited for the x-rays and EKGs to be interpreted, I realized that if we had reached that intersection half a second earlier, the white car would have crashed into the driver's door, probably killing her. I thought of the thousands of other men who had lost beloved wives or children to these fanatical devotees of the cell-phone god -- as dangerous a bunch of assassins as the thugees of India.

The connection between cell-phone driving (CPD) and accidents has been well established. if you don't believe it, type "cell phone" and "accident" into Google and scan through the 2,000,000 entries you get.

Laws prohibiting drivers from using hand-held cell phones have been passed in over forty countries.  But the United States is not as enlightened as Bahrain or Zimbabwe. Only six states have effective laws banning cell-phone drivers. Thirty-three have no such laws and the rest have weak or limited restrictions. In four states -- Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Oregon -- local governments are actually prohibited by the state from enacting anti-CPD laws.

To make matters worse, the opponents of anti-CPD laws, who have successfully defeated legislation in several states, may manage to overturn the existing laws. Their argument is that other one-hand activities, such as drinking coffee, and other distracting conversations, such as driver-passenger arguments, are universally tolerated. Therefore, they contend that it is impossible to prohibit cell-phone driving without impinging on these other 'rights'. Others argue that such laws are unenforceable, that highway patrolmen are few and far between and much too busy to search for CPDs. 

I therefore propose that, in the true American tradition whenever the lawmakers fail us, we citizens take vigilante action to combat these phonomaniac drivers. I'm not proposing that we carry guns in our cars and shoot any cell-phoning drivers we see. No, tempting as the idea may be, it would probably cause more accidents than it would prevent. My plan is less violent and apparently legal.

Whenever you see a driver with a phone to his ear, honk your horn in two sharp blasts, as if saying "shut up"! If enough drivers do that, most CPDs will probably be embarrassed into putting down their phones. And if everyone does it, the chorus of honks will prevent them from hearing what their phonemates are saying -- which, assuming that they hear all the honking, will hopefully be "hang up, you idiot."

The old slogan, "the life you save may be your own" has become trite with overuse. But it's still true, and never more so than now. Please join me in honking to stamp out CPD. I must admit, however, that my motives in this crusade are quite selfish. I almost lost her.