Sunday, August 27, 2006

Cell phones

I won't leave the house without mine. I imagine a large percentage of you who are reading this have cell phones and they're an accepted, normal, not-to-be-lived-without part of your lives.

Dekalb County, led by Vernon Jones, has passed a law adding a $500 additional fine if you're in a car accident and using a cell phone was a contributing factor.

I know using a cell phone in a car can be distracting and it can contribute to and/or cause accidents. However, I think they're going to have a bit of difficulty in two areas.

One, how do you prove using a cell phone was a contributing factor? How much extra is it going to cost to litigate the he said-she said that could be involved? If they find a cell phone on site and the person was using it, does that automatically make it a causation factor?

Two, it's behavior. If they can say using a cell phone can result in a higher fine, what about combing your hair? fussing at your children in the backseat? eating a candy bar? changing the radio station? All of those things can cause and/or contribute to accidents. What about swatting at a bee that flies in the window? There are statistics that say bugs cause quite a few accidents.

Now Dekalb does have some factual data to back up their concern about cell phone use. A large percentage of car accidents in Dekalb (and presumably everywhere) are purported to occur as a result of cell-phone use distraction. But why not just ban the use of cell phones while driving like some areas have? Answering my own question, I would say it's unpopular to ban something that would aggravate a vast majority. It's easier to slap a fine on the tail end of those who don't use their phones "responsibly."

I think there's going to be litigation on this one. Nice as it sounds in some ways, it's not going to hold up under legal scrutiny.

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