Cell Phone Initiative Deserves Chance On The Ballot

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Hang up and drive.

That phrase entered our national speech not long after cell phones entered our hands.

You see the bumper sticker all over town. You hear fellow drivers yelling it out their window when the light turns green and the lead car hasn't moved. It comes up during dinner conversation.

To hear people talk, it would seem everyone agrees -- driving while talking on a hand-held cell phone just shouldn't be done.

And yet, despite all the slogans and the rhetoric, there they are gabbing away while trying to make a left turn into traffic.

We just can't stop ourselves. The phone rings and we pick it up.

If, right now, you're thinking, "People who talk on cell phones while they are driving are bad people. I would never do that," then you aren't thinking back far enough.

It's an American compulsion.

Which is why we believe an initiative that the Safer Road Arizona committee is trying to get on the November 2008 ballot is a good idea.

The law would limit in-car cell phone use to headsets and other hands-free methods. You can still talk, just keep your hands on the wheel.

Under the initiative, there would be a fine of $100 for driving while talking on a hand-held cell phone, and $200 if doing so causes an accident.

It's a slap on the wrist, but a sting in the wallet will get us to think a little harder about flipping open the phone in traffic.

Several states have already passed measures to regulate cell phone use while driving -- California, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.

According to a survey conducted by Response Insurance, 7 percent of crash fatalities were caused by distracted drivers. Those distractions included cell phone use, but also involved tuning the radio, eating or talking to someone in the vehicle.

While we don't think a petition drive needs to begin to ban changing the radio station, we do think that an initiative that encourages more mindfulness on the road deserves to make its way to the ballot.

Another report, this one by Progressive Insurance, showed that 46 percent of drivers studied swerved into another lane, tailgated or ran a red light while talking on cell phones.

Is a law that makes people focus on the road, rather than their conversation, an encroachment on personal rights?

No. Driving is a privilege, not a right, and endangering the lives of those around you does not balance itself out with your need to call home and see what your spouse wants from the grocery store.

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