San Diego DUI Law Center

San Diego DUI criminal defense lawyers report that the National Safety Council is an advocacy group chartered by Congress to do what it can to keep Americans safe. With that mission in mind, the council is recommending a total, nationwide ban on cell phone use while driving.

They’re not talking about switching instead to a hands-free-device-only rule, such as California and several other states have enacted. Recent studies have revealed that crash statistics are about the same, even when a hands-free device is used. No, the council wants no cell use at all for drivers while their cars are in motion.

Based on what we’ve witnessed over the past few years, such a ban would, indeed, be a lifesaver. Who hasn’t been menaced by a driver whose ear is glued to a cell phone, weaving back and forth on the highway, as if drunk.
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And there’s the rub. Studies have concluded that using a cell phone while driving is statistically the same as driving under the influence – except there are far more drivers whose minds are being held captive by an engaging cell phone conversation, than have stopped off at the neighborhood tavern for a few quick ones.
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About 70,000 cell phones are sold each day in the United States. Nearly 200 million Americans have cell phones, and some days it seems like they’re all on Highway 101 at rush hour. An insurance industry study in 2007 found that 73 percent of Americans talk on a cell phone while driving.

This is not a small problem, because experts say about 80 percent of the traffic crashes each year are due to driver inattention. Banning cell phone use seems a logical step to take.

Logical, perhaps, but is it the right step? Cell phones aren’t the only things that distract drivers. Just ask the mom with an SUV full of screaming second-graders. Or the salesman who’s too busy to stop for lunch, and is relishing his super-sized Whopper, Coke and fries combo while driving to the next sales call.

Maybe you don’t care for Fall Out Boy, and reach across to the radio to find the oldies station.

No matter which scenario you choose, those drivers are distracted, in some cases hopelessly and dangerously so. They aren’t paying attention to what should be a driver’s first priority – safely navigating through traffic.

The question then becomes, should government mandate safer driving? That’s kind of a moot point, because governments already do that, with literally a truck full of rules and regulations.

The problem is that governments can mandate all they want, but they really have little control over what people actually do behind the wheel. All they really can do is impose a fine – a de facto tax – on those caught breaking the rules.

In fact, governments have a wide array of regulations specifically designed to protect the life and limb of citizens – and many of those citizens make a habit of ignoring those prohibitions on a regular basis. Have you ever driven over the posted speed limit?

In most cases, those numbers are based on the statistical realities of the role excess speed plays car crashes. Most regulations have a reason, and the reason usually is your safety and the safety of others.

The plain truth is that the only real regulator is you, the person behind the wheel. And it is you who must decide if eating a double cheeseburger, shushing the kids, or answering a ringing cell phone is in the best interests of you and your passengers.

From a safety standpoint, that should be an easy choice to make. Realistically speaking, however, maybe not so much.

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