http://dsugdenholidays.wordpress.com [still away]
It’s always interesting to observe the customs of others, especially when your own customs are informed or affected by the observation. Likewise, it is said that travel broadens the mind. That is certainly true in most cases although I have to say by no means all. But that’s a discussion for another day.
Like smoking and mobile phones at home, many States have banned smoking in public places and the use of cell phones whilst driving. But they are not universal bans. I quote heavily from the Wednesday July 29th edition of USA Today (page 8A). All rights to those quotes go to the original author. I’m not discussing smoking here.
Apparently ‘Cellphones are as much part of American’s lives as cars these days’ with the number of subscribers,‘270 million’, outnumbering that of registered cars. For all sorts of reasons [see ‘Smart Mobs’ 2001 – Howard Rheingold] Americans were late adopters of the cell phone, but are now making up for it. During the two weeks we’ve been here we’ve seen all manner and ages of people using all types of cell phones to call (often, like the quiet coach gob-merchant – to SHOUT), to receive calls and to text.
However, there is still no blanket (Federal) ban on texting whilst driving. On our trip from Newark NJ airport into Manhattan, we saw one guy texting on two phones – while we drove slowly through the Lincoln Tunnel. Slowly I grant, but in his case – dangerously. To and from San Francisco airport both shuttle drivers answered calls, briefly, but nevertheless answered. We saw many such car-phone discussions in both Seattle and San Francisco.
But there seems to be a growing debate over here about such usage and David Teater (senior director for transportation initiatives at the National safety Council) asks ‘How many more lives need to be lost before we enact and aggressively enforce laws…?’. Over here the debate isn’t just whether to use hands-free devices or not – it’s whether to allow the phone to be used at all. I wonder how vociferous that debate will become at home?
Truck drivers are apparently 23 times more likely to have a collision when texting than when not texting (which beggars the question: how many times are they likely to have a collision anyway?). The discussion about a blanket ban on talking on the phone is being debated state by state and 21 States (and DC) ban any use by ‘novice drivers’. Five States have bans similar to the UK, where only hands free devices can be used. But we’ve been in two of these and like the UK, have constantly seen the law broken.
Now, I’m as guilty as the next person for using my phone whilst driving, but always hands-free. And, I no longer text or tie my shoelaces while the car is mobile!! It would be hard to argue though that talking on the phone is any more dangerous than talking to passengers. On a recent bus ride a sign above the driver said something like: You may ask the driver for directions but do not engage in conversation as it is dangerous. What’s the difference?
Do other in-car distractions vie for banning too? Noisy children? Chatty aunts/wives/husbands/uncles? I don’t know – what do you think?
Still on holiday: See http://dsugdenholidays.wordpress.com