Can you hear us now?
Starting Jan. 2, 2011, motorists on Delaware roads will need to use hands-free technology to talk on their cell phones. The new law, signed by Gov. Jack Markell on Tuesday, also bans drivers from texting, reading or writing messages, browsing the Internet, using laptops, PDAs or playing games.
It’s comprehensive, and it’s a law based on saving lives, not intruding on personal choice, as many have argued.
According to the “Delaware’s Cell Phone Law Fact Sheet,” forwarded to us by Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin, 94 crashes have involved the use of a cell phone in 2010, as of July 6. Another 17 have involved texting while driving as the distraction.
Those are real numbers. And those are real lives attached to those real numbers.
Government, in its truest form, has three real purposes — to create laws, to enforce said laws and to protect our borders. Elected officials have an obligation to create laws that benefit and protect their citizens, without infringing on individuals’ rights.
This law protects our citizens, without stepping on individual rights.
For starters, talking on a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle does not fall under our protected rights. The framers of the Constitution did not include using a Blackberry to check the latest scores or calling friends while maneuvering across the Indian River Inlet Bridge in the summer. And, to be completely frank, we do not have a protected right to operate a motor vehicle, at all. Driving is, in fact, a priviledge.
And it’s a priviledge that many of us share. If you are texting and driving, and lose enough focus to cause an accident, it’s pretty likely that the other vehicle you hit is being operated by somebody who is not texting and driving. It’s an innocent person just trying to get from Point A to Point B. It’s like drinking and driving. It’s all too often a sober driver or passenger that feels the brunt of somebody else’s carelesness.
The new law does not impede people’s ability to speak on the phone while driving at all. Just use a headset or Bluetooth device, and you can chat all you want while keeping both hands available to do what they should be focused on in the first place — driving.
Look, we know that talking on the cell phone while driving is not the only way people get distracted while operating motor vehicles. People get in accidents while changing the channel on their car stereos, turning to talk to somebody in the back seat, dealing with unruly children and even just falling asleep.
But this is one step our officials have taken that could save a life or two by simply creating a law — possibly your life, or somebody in your family. It’s a positive step toward making our roads safer for all of us, and one that we should be embracing.