Quebec’s transport minister is going to introduce a bill to, among other things, ban cellphone use on highways.
This is the way the tide has been moving for a while now, all over the world. So I can’t say I’m too surprised. I even understand the arguments for it. Distracted drivers are dangerous, and cell phone use is distracting, no doubt.
But I still strongly disagree with the ban, for several reasons:
- Plenty of other distractions exist aside from cell phones. Are we also going to ban fumbling with the radio dial, sipping morning coffee, talking to passengers, dealing with crying children in the backseat, driving while distracted, or driving while tired? Where does it end?
- Cell phones reduce stress, which in turn reduces accidents. Who do you think the better driver is going to be? The person driving erratically through traffic to get to a client meeting on time? Or the one who can simply phone ahead and explain that the traffic has caused a delay, and then relax and drive the rest of the way there without panicking?
- Cell phones are most useful in cars when there’s an emergency. The man who phones ahead to the hospital to let them know that his wife is in labour and they’re on their way in surely doesn’t deserve a ticket.
- On very long drives, it can actually help to phone someone and talk to them, to avoid road fatigue and to stay alert.
- Truckers, bus drivers and taxi drivers communicate via CB or central radio dispatches. Are there plans to ban those practices too? If not, why not? If the excuse is because to them it’s useful, then consider that to many individuals, the ability to talk on the phone while driving is also useful. What’s good for the goose ought to be good for the gander, after all.
- It’s a naked revenue grab. Too many people are bound to break this law, resulting in higher ticketing revenue for the government.
- It’s a politics-only move. Like restricting liquids on planes. It plays into the stereotypes of the evil, SUV-driving suburbanites with their cell phones wreaking havoc on the roads. It doesn’t really make anyone safer, it just makes people feel safer. In my opinion, that’s a shoddy reason to restrict personal freedom.
The point is, this is probably going to be law, one way or the other. It’s too unpopular, politically, to make arguments against a total ban. But it’s a waste of a law. To truly improve our road safety, energy could be better focused elsewhere.