The Cell Phone Debate “Rages” On


As mentioned in my previous post on the new California hands free cell phone law, there has been a raging debate over the use of cell phones while driving. I recently participated in a conversation on the subject on the website “Newsvine”, which conversation begins at:

http://dawn1.newsvine.com/_news/2008/06/26/1613075-the-truth-about-driving-and-talking-on-the-cell

The subject was raised by a user named Dawn-308170, who on Thursday, June 26th, posted a message reading:

I think driving while talking on your cell phone or hands free device should be illegal altogether. If someone gets into an accident while talking on their cell phone or hands free device the penalty should be very steep. If someone is killed and the driver was on the cell phone they should go to jail. When you are drivine a multi ton piece of metal you have to concentrate on the task at hand. That would be your driving. Wake up people. We are becoming a society of ignorant, rude, arrogant human beings who really don’t give a crap about anybody but ourselves. It’s time to wake up and take responsibility for our actions. We did without cell phones and electronic gadgets for how many years?

Not surprisingly, this post generated a blizzard of responses (1168 at the moment I write this). Back and forth the comments went, supporting Dawn and attacking Dawn, sometimes for her opinion, sometimes very personally. And alternately attacking and supporting, as the case might be, those who were supporting and attacking Dawn.

It is not my purpose in mentioning this conversation to re-ignite it here, or even to discuss the pros and cons of the new law. In fact, I probably would not have even joined in the Newsvine conversation had it not been for a single post by a user who mistakenly styles himself Problem Solver. In a fairly lengthy diatribe (you can read his entire rant on the Newsvine page linked above by scrolling down to his post at 12:17 pm on Thursday, June 26th), he said,I am extremely coordinated, quite bright (take my word for it!)“, then made this extraordinary comment:

You’d better believe I flip them off, yell at them through their window, lay on my horn so they can’t hear, make “blah blah” hands at them, cut them off, brake suddenly or slow to a crawl if they’re behind me – anything to get them off the phone.

Whatever might be the dangers of cell phone use while driving, road rage is far more serious and dangerous. And Problem Solver is a very angry person indeed. I replied to him as follows:

Blowing your horn other than in an emergency is illegal in California. Intentionally cutting someone off is illegal, dangerous and downright stupid! Far more dangerous than talking on the telephone. And if you do that and cause an accident which kills someone, you will be a candidate for state prison. Braking suddenly and without reason is also illegal. If that causes an accident, you will be at fault. Driving too slowly for the conditions on the freeway is also illegal.

So, Mr. Self-Appointed Traffic cop, at least four of your “tactics” for getting people off their cell phones are illegal. And the road rage characteristics of yelling at people, blowing your horn and making “blah-blah” motions with your hands are also distracting YOU from driving safely.

You, Sir, are not at all “quite bright” (take my word for it!). Rather, you are a self-confessed clueless jackass, far more dangerous on the road than most cell phone talking drivers.

Jim Reilly, Novato CA

Problem Solver replied:

I guess the solution is simple then, eh, Jim?

HANG UP AND DRIVE!

(By the way, you’ll be very pleased to know that I telecommute and drive less than 10 miles a MONTH…not because of gas prices, but because I can’t stand driving around here anymore. It’s just too dangerous because of all these yakking, self-absorbed blowhards…)

And, in response to another post supporting his comments, he said:

Or (gasp!) they could simply wait until they get where they’re going and then call, but hey, that’s far too complicated for most of the yakkers to figure out…especially when they’re blindly drifting into my lane in their monstrous SUVs, about to crush my little car! But if you honk at them or disturb their conversation, or try to get them to pay attention before you get hit and/or killed, Jim from Novato (above) will get upset…

I replied to his two comments as follows:

>> … especially when they’re blindly drifting into my lane in their monstrous SUVs, about to crush my little car! But if you honk at them or disturb their conversation, or try to get them to pay attention before you get hit and/or killed, Jim from Novato (above) will get upset… <<

Are you being intentionally obtuse? Or are you really that dense? I have no problem with honking at someone who is drifting into your lane or otherwise creating an actual hazard on the freeway. I do it myself whenever necessary (and under those circumstances, it is legal to do so).

Read my comment again and see if it expresses any support for cell phone drivers who are creating a freeway hazard. It doesn’t; rather, it condemns YOUR self-described arrogant, irrational, stupid and downright dangerous over-reactive conduct.

>> (By the way, you’ll be very pleased to know that I telecommute and drive less than 10 miles a MONTH…not because of gas prices, but because I can’t stand driving around here anymore. It’s just too dangerous because of all these yakking, self-absorbed blowhards…) <<

Anything that keeps you off the road is a good thing. I drive an average of more than 500 miles per week and would much rather have to deal with 1000 drivers on cell phones than one lunatic like you who thinks it’s okay to cut people off and slam on his brakes in front of them to make some misbegotten point.

By the way, just this morning only a few miles from where I am working and on my route home tonight, someone in a small pickup truck slammed on his brakes on the 880 freeway. The big rig driver behind him tried to swerve around him and crashed through the center divider into oncoming traffic, hitting another vehicle head on. Last I heard, at least two people were dead, including the big rig driver.

>> You’d better believe I flip them off, yell at them through their window, lay on my horn so they can’t hear, make “blah blah” hands at them, cut them off, brake suddenly or slow to a crawl if they’re behind me – anything to get them off the phone. <<

I wonder — was the driver of that pickup truck trying “anything” to get the big rig driver off his cell phone.

This ended my conversation with Problem Solver, who apparently chose at that point to disengage (at least with me, though he later posted several more comments). At least one other participant in the thread, LA FreewayDenizen, however, got the point and replied:

I think you’re right, Jim. We’re all better off if cooler heads prevail on the road.

Precisely, Denizen, precisely!

Somewhat off the main point, another user named Tish-294256 made the comment:

I totally agree with everything you said Problem solver….. also… with regards to that person’s comment about horn blowing…. if blowing your horn is illegal in CA, why I have I NEVER been pulled over? I’ve blown my horn so many times at people, and have seen cop cars in my vicinity while doing so……yet….. huh… I’ve never gotten pulled over. Interesting. LOL.

Although many people don’t realize it, California law does generally prohibit blowing a car’s horn. I replied to Tish as follows:

California Vehicle Code section 27001 reads as follows:

27001. (a) The driver of a motor vehicle when reasonably necessary to insure safe operation shall give audible warning with his horn.

(b) The horn shall not otherwise be used, except as a theft alarm system which operates as specified in Article 13 (commencing with Section 28085) of this chapter.

If you want to see it for yourself, go here: (link removed by Newsvine)

Generally speaking, cops have better things to do than pull people over for blowing their horns, unless doing so is creating a hazard (such as in the way “problem creator” uses his). How many times have you been speeding without being pulled over? Or rolled through a stop sign? Of followed too closely on the freeway? Or made a lane change or turn without signalling? Or failed to yield to a pedestrian on the curb? Or blew a red light? Or any of the other violations people routinely commit without being caught or cited.

I was a prosecutor for almost ten years and did criminal defense for 15. A cop friend once told me that if he followed ANY driver for about five minutes, he would see at least one vehicle code violation.

Newsvine’s user policy prohibits links to other sites, so my link to the Vehicle Code was removed. It is:

I have driven an average of 25,000 miles per year over the last ten years. I frequently use my cell phone while driving and have generally used either a wired or Blue Tooth wireless head set. My biggest complaint about cell phone using drivers is that all too many of them drive too slowly on the freeway and/or otherwise through inattention impede the normal flow of traffic.

For more on that subject, see my post “Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way” on my other blog, Three Dot … at:

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