I am not a proponent of government involvement and legislation of every minute detail of our lives. The government that extends its reach to limiting personal freedoms and usurping individual judgment is a government that can ultimately take all of our freedoms away and render us nearly devoid of personal responsibility. I some ways, we have already begun our decent down the slippery slope. It is only a matter of degree.
That said, I think there are areas with just cause for government to place limits on our activities, particularly when they have the potential for dire consequences for others. An example of such limits imposed for the public good are the laws establishing the level of alcohol in the bloodstream, above which a person is considered “under the influence” and not able to legally operate a motor vehicle. And because they are neither able physically or intellectually to protect themselves, infants and children are guarded from their parent’s irresponsibility by laws prescribing the use of safety seats and other restraints in automobiles. Even speed limits are designed to reflect the nature of the roads they are applied to, with the intent of balancing safety with the most efficient rates of movement of vehicles. And we are obligated to obey them.
Lawmakers around the country are wrestling with another issue related to auto safety. That is cell phone use by drivers. The impairment of drivers using cell phones is indisputable. Researchers have proved time and again that drivers are distracted when using a cell phone, and especially when using it to send text. Drivers are even distracted when using hands-free devices. In one study, people in their 20’s using cell phones, had their reaction times slowed to the same rates as drivers in their 70’s who were not using cell phones. That is a pretty amazing finding. Other data are equally eye opening.
Is it time for real limits on cell phone use when operating a motor vehicle?
This matter has really come into focus for me in the last day or so. A person with whom I have conducted business was killed last week, reportedly by a driver who was distracted while using a cell phone. The cell phone using driver swerved and clipped our friend’s Jeep, causing it to lose control and flip at least twice. Our friend died at the scene. Her two children, ages 8 and 2-1/2 were also in the Jeep. Both were hospitalized, but survived in part because of the restraints they were wearing. The 8 year old has been so traumatized that she is frightened to even get into an automobile.
Cell phones are a wonderful, useful, helpful part of our modern lives. As a husband, parent and child, I am thrilled that I can contact my wife, my children, and my parents, essentially whenever and where ever I or they might be. We are surely more connected because of it, and that is a good thing. But cell phones can also be incredibly “self-ish.” They feed the monster of impatience, and instant gratification. And they can raise the level of dis-courteousness we have toward others. Who has not experienced the loud conversations we have heard one-half of when someone uses a cell phone in a restaurant, or waiting room. And in our use of cell phones, we can even display a blatant disregard for the well being of others. Has anyone other than me used a cell phone while driving and at the end of the conversation, found themselves well down the road, but unable to really remember much of what occurred around us on road during the time we were talking? This is not only self-centered, it is implicitly dangerous.
While we wait to see if lawmakers will eventually limit our “freedom” in this regard, we should all, at the very least, take to heart the teaching of Paul in his letter to the Philippians, when he said “do nothing out of selfish ambition, or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interest, but also to the interests of others.” (2: 3,4)
Perhaps we should be looking to our own interest, but in this case our own personal safety, as well as the interests and personal safety of others as it relates to our use of cell phones when we are behind the wheel of a potential killing machine. I am resolved to do so and hope you will too. Pull over to the side of the road, start and complete a conversation from that safe vantage. Let incoming calls go into voice mail and return it when you are not driving, or stop somewhere and take the call.
To press the point even further, consider this…have you EVER made or received a cell phone call SO important that it exceeds the value of your own life, or the life of another? I am guessing the answer is ‘no’. If you have, I would love to know what it was about.