The Unz Review - Mobile
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 BlogviewPhilip Giraldi Archive
Ban Cell Phones While Driving - or Maybe Not?
🔊 Listen RSS
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information


Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New ReplyRead More
ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Troll, or LOL with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used once per hour.
Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments
List of Bookmarks

I was out shopping on Saturday and found myself following a dark blue minivan down the main street of a nearby town here in northern Virginia. We had just left the town limits when a small boy about four years old climbed out the left rear window of the car and sat on the door frame with his entire upper body outside the car. He was grinning and waving from the vehicle, which was going along at about 40 miles per hour and weaving slightly, suggesting the driver might have been on a cell phone. The little boy sat there for about two minutes before disappearing back inside.

It was possibly the most terrifying experience that I have had in nearly fifty years of driving. I was afraid that if I honked my horn the driver would hit the brake and the boy would fly out, so I just dropped way back so that if he fell out I could avoid hitting him. I followed the driver, who appeared to be a woman in her thirties, passing her as she turned into a housing development. There were several children in the car. She was on her cell phone. I was badly shaken by the incident and now regret that I did not take down the license plate number and report her to the police. It was clear that the little boy was not strapped into a car seat and, while I am all for rights and liberties, I have come around to the viewpoint that cell phones in automobiles are a threat to all of us. I have a hands-free system in my own car and I try not to use the phone at all when driving. But I have noticed that when in the vehicle and receiving a call one tends to tune out and focus on the phone, not on the driving. I am sure readers of this website and magazine have experienced numerous near misses or even worse with other drivers who were seen to be on the phone.

Contrary to that thinking, however, an interesting study by MIT of Boston motorists (admittedly among the world’s most aggressive anyway) suggests that drivers who are risk-takers and careless in general tend to use their cell phones a lot while on the road, perhaps indicating that is not the phone that is the problem but rather the reckless proclivities of those who tend to use it frequently.

In light of that study, whether banning cell phones would have made any difference in the incident I have recounted I do not know, but I do know that I almost saw a little boy die.

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Cell Phones 
Hide 10 CommentsLeave a Comment
Commenters to FollowEndorsed Only
Trim Comments?
  1. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I’m with you on this one, libertarian though I am. Hands-free is a different matter.

  2. Bob Jones says:


    I think you should have not only taken the license plate number, but also called 911, and made sure that action was taken. In the case you described, you were witnessing reckless endangerment, and had the boy fallen out of the car, negligent homicide. Of course, the driver likely would have blamed the auto manufacturer for making a car that enabled the boy to open the window.

    I know this may make me sound like a busy-body liberal, but after being the “victim” of a cell phone talking driver, my threshold for tolerance of such behavior is zero. 5 years ago I was waiting at a red light when a guy on his phone drove right into the back of my car and with enough force the that he shoved me into the car in front of me with enough force that both my car and the car in front of me were deemed total losses by the insurers. At the time I was driving an Audi – thank God for German engineering – and neither my 3-year old daughter, or I were seriously injured. Nonetheless, cell phoning and driving is probably worse that drinking and driving and studies have shown that ability to properly and safely control a moving vehicle is about the same for a phoner and a drinker.

  3. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Yes, of course — another law! That’s what we all need! Safety, safety, safety! It’s the same line of thinking that Nanny Bloomberg uses every time there’s a shooting in NYC: Just ban guns! Except that criminals always will find ways to get guns anyway, because, well … they’re criminals! And any parent who is careless enough to let their kid hang out the window of a moving vehicle is hardly likely to observe a cell phone ban in cars. So who will be affected? Those of us who are more conscientious and exercise common sense will have one more right abolished. But this is as it must be, comrade, in the USSA.

  4. Drove with a handheld cell phone for 25 years and never had any issues with danger. Note that law enforcement is exempt still.

    What about talking to passengers, listening to music, eating or drinking coffee? They are all, under some circumstances, just as hazardous.

    Just like gun control… the problem is what some people do with them. Punishing the whole citizenry for the abuse by some is harkening back to public school authoritarianism for the convenience of authority.

    Such behavior is reckless, but cell phone use itself has nothing to do with the chocie to behave recklessly.

    But I guess our nation has chosen to make “pre-emptive” punishment the norm, whether at home or abroad in its wars.

  5. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    If the real possibility of the loss or injury of a child is not incentive enough to a parent or driver to behave more responsibly behind the wheel, I suspect no law will help.

  6. TomB says:

    What I find funny about the kind of people who support the kind of laws suggested here is that despite us knowing and seeing every day the sort of reality that the MIT study reveals, nevertheless they keep supporting such laws and their pathetic penalties.

    Of *course* the responsible people amongst us are not going to be using their cell phones when they can’t safely handle them. And just as obviously the non-responsible people amongst us are, in general, not going to care all that much about obeying the laws against same so long as the kind of penalty for doing so is not all that much to worry about.

    So what’s the answer? Either forget making such laws or make the penalties for such use really really serious and savage. No license and no driving for a year, for instance. No exceptions, period.

    But oh no no no, people will say, the latter’s far too savage. (Even if the danger being dealt with—terrible car crashes—are indeed terrible.)

    So what do we do? Well we paste one more irritating little law on the books afflicting the responsible people most of all and not really obeyed much by the irresponsible, and this makes us feel all good and virtuous for a second, but then wonder in the long run why things haven’t gotten better.

    And so it goes.

  7. KateLE says:

    Sounds more like a problem with lousy parenting than lousy driving.

  8. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Here is a different interpretation of the MIT findings: It is objectively dangerous for ANYONE to speak on a cell phone while driving, and not at all surprisingly, it is the people who care the least about safety who are the least worried about talking on their cell phones while driving. Here’s an analogy: the least responsible surgeons are the most likely to operate without first washing their hands – that certainly does not imply that it is alright for responsible surgeons to perform surgery with dirty hands!

  9. If the automobile were invented today, it wouldn’t be allowed on the road.

    I love them too and am loathe to give them up – but Nader’s “Unsafe at any Speed” was an understatement.

    Nevertheless, the nanny state is a ninny state.

  10. Brandon says:

    @Fran Macadam

    When Automobile’s were invented, at the time people didn’t think they were to be on the roads, because that was where people walked, children played, and people hung out. But over time people were forced out of the way and soon roads became made for cars, and then sidewalks had to be put in.

    I do agree with Robert, that bad people will still continue to bad things. Its only the good people that will be affected. I wouldn’t mind outlawing major distractions to the driver such as eating/drinking. and cell phone usage. By the way this is now my topic for a research paper. Seems like a good debate.

Current Commenter

Leave a Reply - Comments on articles more than two weeks old will be judged much more strictly on quality and tone

 Remember My InformationWhy?
 Email Replies to my Comment
Submitted comments become the property of The Unz Review and may be republished elsewhere at the sole discretion of the latter
Subscribe to This Comment Thread via RSS Subscribe to All Philip Giraldi Comments via RSS
Personal Classics
A Modern Guernica Enabled by Washington
Pressuring Candidates Even Before They Are Nominated
But is it even a friend?
The gagged whistleblower goes on the record.
Today’s CIA serves contractors and bureaucrats—not the nation.
Pay no mind to the Mossad agent on the line.