Logical Arguments for and Against Laws Against Using Cell Phones While Driving
With more and more people using cellular phones, a new debate has surfaced. Should there be laws against using cell phones while driving? The statistics about distracted driving, which includes any type of distraction, show that distracted driving causes accidents. According to the United States Department of Transportation, 5,747 people were killed because of driving distractions and approximately 448,000 were injured in 2009 alone (1) Using a cell phone is just another way that driver are distracted. The debate rages on…should there be a specific law against using cell phones while driving.
Some states are passing laws specifically for inexperienced drivers, just as they restrict the times inexperienced drivers are allowed to drive. For our purposed, however, we will look at the debate over whether or not there should be a law banning general cell phone usage. This is a very sensitive subject, mostly because both sides present some logical arguments, but a variety of fallacies can be found on both sides of this hot issue.
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This entire debate is nothing new. Distracted driving has been a hot topic since 1905, and there were no cell phones back then.The big advancement in technology then was windshield wiper blades. They were thought to be hypnotic, and distract drivers.
(AAA). From there it went to the radio in the 1930’s. Here in the 21st century, we’ve landed on cellular phones. Same debate, different details. When it comes to hands free cell phone usage while driving, both sides have scientific studies and statistics to back up their cases. According to a study funded by AAA Foundation for Traffic safety, using a hands free device holds approximately the same distraction as tuning the radio (AAA).However, there are also reports that having a conversation while driving with a hands free device is much more risky than having a conversation with somebody who is also in the car with you (Dewar 327).
A recent study showed that only 2% of people can safely multi task while driving. This was compared to the same amount of people who would make good fighter pilots (Cruz, pg 1). This quote from Matt Duffy shows how some opponents to a law feel. “I will vow to be careful while on the phone — and to use a headset or speakerphone whenever possible so that I can keep both hands on the wheel.But, I won’t take the vow to quit using the phone in the car. ” (Duffy) The “vow” that Mr. Duffy is speaking of refers to a campaign by Oprah Winfrey.
She has heavily campaigned for a law against using a phone without a hands free device and laws against texting while driving. In a press release, she stated: “My biggest hope for the No Phone Zone campaign is that it becomes mandatory that no one uses their phone in the car or texts while driving—just as seat belts are mandatory, just as driving while drunk is considered absolutely taboo, I’m hoping that this becomes not just law, but second nature for all of us” (Harpo).We can look at Oprah’s statement as an “Argument by Analogy. ” Her logic says that because we have driving laws about not wearing seatbelts and driving drunk, which are both dangerous activities, we should also have a law about using cell phones while driving, another dangerous activity. Opponents pose some interesting questions, though. As previously stated, there are other activities that distract drivers. Dealing with children in the car, changing the radio station, and eating are just a few.
According to the NHTSA, of all 2009 fatalities that were caused by distracted driving, approximately 20% involved a cell phone (pg 8).So, they bring up laws against other distractions. Should there also be laws against these distractions, because they are just as, if not more, dangerous? (Johnstone) If we used Oprah’s argument by analogy, if these activities did cause just as many accidents as cell phones, she would have to back laws against these things, also. But this also presents the “slippery slope” fallacy presented by opponents. They are saying that if cell phones are banned while driving, we won’t be able to do anything that could be distracting while driving. (Kids?They would just have to walk). Opponents also show that, unlike eating in the car, cell phone usage can actually help with safety.
For example, if people call to say they are running late, they may not speed. Accidents and dangers on the road can be reported more quickly (“Debate”). Another area of debate is enforcement. Already we are seeing that enforcement just doesn’t seem to be working very well. In areas with laws against texting, it is just difficult to catch somebody. Supporters of a law believe that new laws can be enforced, just as laws about using eatbelts and child safety seats were eventually enforced. (Reinberg).
In the United Kingdom, where using a cell phone while driving is already illegal, of 2,000 people only 3% said that they have ever been caught on the phone while driving. Many motorists are investing in car kits and hands free devices.The penalty in England for breaking this law is up to two years in jail. In the United States, for the few states that have laws, fines range from $50 to $600, with possible suspension of your drivers license. (Johnson) One opponent of cell phone laws offered this suggestion: I think instead the penalties for causing an accident while driving distracted need to be stiffened. Perhaps the loss of the license for a few years for causing an accident while texting behind the wheel would be more of a deterrent than the threat of a ticket that probably won’t happen. ” (“Alternative”) Opponents of a new law against cell phones repeatedly say that there is already a law against driving recklessly.
That two percent of people who can multi-task, should they be pulled over if they are safely driving? What about the almighty dollar?Proponents of a cell phone law state how this would raise money for states, save in medical costs and all other costs caused by car accidents (“Cell Phone Ban”). Opponents say that it would COST more money, tying up the court system, and there would be costs involved in changing cell phone plans (less minutes would be used). Each side has their own statistics and research to back up their positions. It’s a classic case of stacked evidence. Each side is only presenting information that helps their case, and none that might hurt their case.Although states have the authority to regulate the actions of drivers (“Debate”), it has been shown that it might be more effective to have insurance companies and other markets try to regulate the usage of cell phones while driving. Insurance companies could charge a higher premium for cell phone users.
With advancing technology, this may indeed be possible. Recently there was an iPhone app released that gives ‘reward’ points for not using a phone in a car. It can detect if the phone is moving more than 5 miles per hour (Svensson). The real issue at the heart of this topic is about how much control the government should have over our time. In a perfect world, people would not take risks while they are driving. If a person couldn’t talk while driving, if it hindered their ability to drive, they just wouldn’t talk while driving. Because this debate is truly about governmental control, it will most likely continue for a very long time.
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“Cell Phone Ban Would Save Money, Research Shows. ” Cbc. ca. CBC. 29 Sept 2010. Web. 19 Oct 2010.
Cruz, Gilbert with Kristi Oloffson. “Distracted Driving: Should Talking, Texting Be Banned? ” Time. com. Time, Inc. 24 Aug 2009. Web. 2 October 2010.
“Debate: Banning Cell Phones in Cars. ” Debatepedia. International Debate Education Association. 11 June 2010. Web. 5 Oct 2010. Dewar, Robert E, Paul Erson and Gerson Alexander.
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” Mattjduffy. com. 29 Jan 2010. Web. 9 Oct 2010. Harpo, Inc. “The Oprah Winfrey Show Hosts No Phone Zone Day Friday, April 30.
” Oprah. com. Harpo, Inc. 29 April 2010. Web. 3 October 2010. Johnson, Geoff with Leigh Montgomery.
“9 States Ban Cell Phone Use While Driving. Is Yours On The List? ” csmonitor. com. The Christian Science Monitor. 23 Sept 2010. Web. 19 Oct 2010.
Johnstone, Michael. “What Kind of Laws are Reasonable for Driving While Talking on the Phone? InsightCommunity. com. Floor 64. 19 Mar 2008. Web. 3 October 2010.
Reinberg, Steven. “Nationwide Cell Phone Ban for Drivers Urged. ” Washingtonpost. com. The Washington Post Company. 12 Jan 2009. Web.
4 October 2010. Svensson, Peter. “Phone App Fights Distracted Driving With Rewards. ” Yahoo News. The Associated Press. 13 Oct 2010. Web.
19 Oct 2010. US Department of Transportation. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Traffic Safety Facts: Distracted Driving 2009. Washington, DC: NHTSA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis. 2010. web pdf.