'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
HIGHWAYS WILL BE SAFE ON OCTOBER 1ST
After seven years of trying, the Connecticut State Legislature finally passed a bill banning the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. (No, I don’t mean they passed the bill while cruising in their cars. I mean citizens will no longer be allowed to drive while talking on hand-held cell phones.) The new law takes effect on October 1st and violators will be fined $100. There is an exception to the bill: hand-held cell phones are OK during an emergency.
Personally, I didn’t care one way or the other if the law passed. I’m on the road a lot and I use my cell phone constantly while driving. But I already have a hands-free device for my cell phone, which I’ve been using for years.
I need this hands-free device on my cell phone so my hands are freed up to do other important things while driving: eating lunch and reading road maps. Now before you get the impression that I’m a reckless driver, whenever I’m talking on my cell phone, I never eat lunch AND read a road map at the same time. I only do one or the other while talking on the phone.
And just in case you’re not convinced that I am indeed a good driver, consider this important fact: when it comes to overall driving skills, I am in the top 10% of the population. The source of this impressive statistic? My own sincerely held personal opinion.
Anyway, I was stunned to learn that this new law prohibits much more than just the use of hand-held cell phones. Quoting directly from an Associated Press story: “The bill also assesses a $100 fine for any other distraction that causes people to drive poorly, such as eating or reading.”
Oh great! Isn’t that typical? For seven years the politicians have been squawking about hand-held cell phones—and hand-held cell phones only—but when the law finally passes, it turns out they slipped a bunch of additional stuff into the fine print.
I haven’t read the actual bill—but that’s OK, neither have any of the state legislators—so I’m not sure how specifically it defines these other violations. When it refers to “eating,” does it mean full meals with a table cloth, silverware, and a dessert menu? Or will you be fined $100 if you pop a Tic-Tac into your mouth?
How exactly does the bill define illegal “reading” while driving a car? When a cop pulls you over for driving the wrong way down a one-way street, I guess you can explain, “Of course I did not read that ‘One Way’ sign, officer. It’s against the law to read while driving.”
As usual, the devil is in the details. There is far too much ambiguity in this new law. For example, you can use a hand-held cell phone during an emergency, but what is the precise definition of the word “emergency”? I would say that if I have a potential customer on the phone and I am in danger of losing a sale unless I continue talking to him on my cell phone, and if that lost sale has the chance of being the first small step of a economic downturn which affects, first, me, then my company, then my industry, then other industries in this region, and then finally a full-fledged financial downward spiral plunging our entire state into a deep recession—then it seems to me that particular phone call surely qualifies as an “emergency.”
Or if someone wants to order Chinese take-out and ensure it’s ready by the time he gets home, that too, as far as I’m concerned, is a very serious “emergency.”
This new law won’t make the highways any safer, since cops won’t have time to arrest speeders and drunks anymore. They’ll be too busy writing cell phone tickets (not to mention eating and reading tickets).
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