Image by bjosefowicz via Flickr
It saddens me whenever the government decides to pass legislation that basically isn't needed. Particularly if existing laws already encompass the act in question. Tomorrow is a day that will particularly sadden me because of a new law that will take place in my home state of Maryland.
Beginning tomorrow, it will be illegal to talk on a cell phone while driving in the state of Maryland, making Maryland the 8th state to pass such a ban. For now, it will be a secondary offense, meaning that you can only be charged if you are pulled over for some other offense like speeding or running a red light. However, I predict it won't be long before they make it a primary offense. (God I hate living in a Blue State).
I do not disagree with studies that show that folks that talk or text on their cell phones while driving increase their chances of being involved in an accident. Studies show that 28% of accidents are caused by people using their cell phones in some manner while driving. In total, 80% of accidents are caused by some form of distracted driving.
Here is why I have an issue with making cell phone use illegal. First, under current law, if a person is involved in an automobile accident and is found to be at fault, they will be charged. It doesn't matter whether the accident is caused by using a cell phone or some other factor. Second, of accidents caused by any form of distracted driving, based on the studies linked above, only about a third are caused by cell phone use. You are just as likely to have an accident while eating a Big Mac, putting on eye makeup, or changing the CD in your car stereo. Those you can still do.
I admit, that I have been frustrated on more than one occasion because I got caught behind somebody driving under the speed limit. Sure enough, more often than not, when I was able to get by that driver they were talking on a cell phone. For me, that frustration isn't enough to warrant making cell phone use illegal, especially when there are so many other activities that can cause an accident. This is just another example of what the Heritage Foundation calls the "Overcriminalization of America."