FOR GOD'S SAKE, PLEASE STOP "HELPING" US!


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By Rick Carlton - PRRACEwire for The Auto Channel

The National Safety Council today called on motorists to stop using cell phones and messaging devices while driving,and is urging businesses to enact policies prohibiting in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to pass laws banning the behavior.

"Studies show that driving while talking on a cell phone is extremely dangerous and puts drivers at a four times greater risk of a crash," said Janet Froetscher, president and CEO of the NSC. "Driving drunk is also dangerous and against the law. When our friends have been drinking, we take the car keys away. It's time to take the cell phone away."

In the early days of the 19th Century a social movement known as The Luddites, called for the destruction, and removal of all automatic weaving machines in England. Their original manifesto was based on the protection of skilled, albeit lower-class labor, threatened by upper-class industrial manufacturers who were applying new machine automation. Regardless of the final result (which obviously, and ultimately failed), over the ensuing years, recurrent use of the term Luddite became synonymous with any social anti-technology, ranging from early concerns over the application of the electric light bulb, to today's potential mis-use of the ubiquitous electronic funds transaction (EFT).

While The Luddites were emerging as a social force, a young English lad named Eric Arthur Blair was born in 1903, and the youngster ultimately grew up and became better known as George Orwell. Orwell wrote many of most provocative articles and books of the day, but he is principally known as the author of 1984 and Animal Farm. For those who haven't taken the time to read either book since High School, Orwell's stories are based on the pervasive nature of big government gone amok, the elimination of personal privacy, and rampant bureaucratic failure motivated by those who would help "the people," when "the people" are doing just fine, thank you very much.

Now, what does the historical walk down memory lane have to do with the potential elimination of hands-free cell phone use when driving? Well in a phrase, everything, particularly these days. For the record, I don't look forward to seeing POV accidents on the road, nor do I appreciate the pain and suffering that cause them. But, the last time I looked this is America and, if a driver is either too stupid to pay attention appropriately when driving, or incapable of talking and driving at the same time, then so be it. Because no amount of beltway think-tank jiggering, public service announcing, soccer mom hand-wringing, or additional personally invasive legislation is going to stop dumb people, from doing dumb things.

When I lived in LA, and ran the Freeways daily, I saw a number of dumb events on the road, some serious - some not. My favorite was the day that a young woman rolled up alongside me at 70 mph on the 405, doing her makeup with one hand, holding a croissant in the other, and talking animatedly on her hands-free ( I didn't want to know how she was driving, but I assume she was using her knees). Now granted, what she was doing was dumb, but being dumb is not illegal (well, not now anyway). But what was most bizarre about the situation was that there was a California Highway Patrol cruiser two lanes over, and the Chippies did nothing. As for me, I changed lanes and got away from her, just to avoid finding myself in the middle of something potentially serious. But that's the point after all. Everyone should take responsibility for their own risks, and should have the "right" to be dumb - or actively defensive, depending on the sensitivity of one's self-enlightened interest - but clearly it's not the government's place to think for us, as if we would ever need that kind of "help" in the first place.

In the end of the day, trying to mandate a ban on talking hands-free and driving is a simply ridiculous notion. And the statistics cited by the NSC tend to support my premise, since the alleged accident up-tick that is causing NSC's sleepless nights, is based on a positive change of 0.8% over the term of their study. 0.8%? Really? I suspect that there are more people annually injured changing light bulbs than hands-free talking, but unless one is standing in the middle of a freeway, both the bulb and the fixture will usually remain static. So, down to neo-Luddite bureaucrats, and down with more anti-personal rights legislation, that will ultimately result in nothing - since dumb, will be dumb either way. As an unknown bard once said, "Trying to teach a pig to sing, is a waste of time. It can't be done, and it irritates the pig." Hey, now that I think about it, didn't Orwell write that?

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