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January 03, 2012 8:54 am

EDITORIAL: More responsibility, not more regulation, for safer roads

Written by Tessa Schweigert

It’s a frustrating and all-too-common scenario: Driving down the highway, you see another car swerving or slowing down for no apparent reason. When you pass the vehicle, it becomes clear — with one hand on the wheel and the other clutching a cellphone, the driver is distracted.

While we’re all frustrated by distracted drivers talking on cellphones, many of us continue to do it.

Drivers may feel in control while using a cell phone behind the wheel, but those around them — especially those in the car or sharing the road — don’t feel safe.

In a Transportation Department survey released last month, 77 percent of respondents said they answer calls while driving. Forty-one percent said they make calls behind the wheel. Yet 90 percent of those surveyed said they would feel “very unsafe” as a passenger if their driver was talking on a handheld cell phone or texting while driving.

It seems to be a case of “Do as I say, not as I do.”

Seeking to make roads safer, the National Transportation Safety Board recently recommended that every state ban all cellphone use while driving except in emergencies.

It’s unlikely most states will adopt a complete cellphone ban, given how difficult it would be to enforce. Especially with hands-free devices, how can an officer tell if a driver is using his phone?

As USA Today observed, laws that are unenforceable do not increase people’s respect for the law or change public attitudes. Just look at Prohibition.

Further, studies have shown that laws banning cellphone use have not reduced the risk of crashes.

Wyoming lawmakers said last month they doubt the state will adopt the federal safety board’s recommendation.

“I think the state (passing a cellphone ban) would be very difficult,” Rep. David Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. “We are very independent, and we don’t face the challenges of other states, especially those of us in rural areas. So I don’t think it makes sense for us.”

Wyoming lawmakers did outlaw texting while driving in 2010. We support that ban, even though it, too, is difficult to enforce.

When it comes down to it, drivers are distracted by many things — adjusting the radio or temperature, talking to passengers in the backseat, glancing at a map or typing an address into a GPS device or, worse yet, watching a movie.

“People want to be entertained while they’re driving, and that’s where you get in trouble,” said Cody Beers with the Wyoming Department of Transportation.

All drivers need to eliminate distractions, whatever they may be.

“When you decide to drive, you need to keep your eyes on the road, drive safely and make good choices. That’s our basic message,” Beers said.

Wyomingites don’t want more laws regulating behavior. While a complete cellphone ban is unlikely in the Cowboy State, it’s up to drivers to be safe and to reduce distractions. On the road, driving is your most important responsibility.

1 Comment

  • Comment Link January 24, 2012 11:06 am posted by Joelene Gonzales

    Banning the use of a cellphone while driving does make a differnce. Weather you are able to enforce it or not doesnt matter. What matter is if the person is involved in a car accident and was found to be on a cellphone then you are able to "enforce" it.

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