Point, Counterpoint: Should Illinois pass a law banning cell phone use while driving

By Parker Happ and Taurean Small

Parker Happ:

A new phone law would potentially decree Illinoisans to not use their phone at all while driving because, as one lawmaker said, it doesn’t matter if it’s out of your hand, but what’s going on in your head.

Should the state/federal government be able to make such a law?

Listen, I’m here to argue for choice in the matter of driving and talking because, just as everyone knows a McDonald’s double-quarter pounder with cheese could cause potentially long-term ill effects if “used” too frequently, so too can texting or calling while driving. The matter of talking while driving ought not to be decided upon by a government because someone in Springfield or Washington thinks something is bad for me. Americans should own up and have responsibility toward what is sensible for themselves and for others and choose.

“Distracted driving,” as defined by distraction.gov, the official U.S. Government website for Distracted Driving, is “a dangerous epidemic on America’s roadways killing nearly 5,500 and 450,000 in 2009.”

I can’t wait one day to tell my grandkids about the horrible times when the obesity and distracted driving epidemics hit America. When I started stockpiling mass amounts of knowledge, common sense and personal responsibility to combat those vagrant, evil epidemics that could sweep in and make me fat or cause me to hit a tree at any moment. Of course, the government could save me with just one law. Oh please.

The National Transportation Safety Board declared in December 2011 that texting, emailing or chatting while driving were “simply too dangerous to be allowed anywhere in the United States.” In the Daily Herald, even Ren Bishop, who admitted to being a texter, talker and – gasp – tweeter while driving, conceded “I probably shouldn’t, but the technology makes it too easy.”

Bishop argued, however, that she and students at University of Missouri “are mature enough to understand when it is appropriate and when it is not” to use a phone while driving.

The NTSB disagrees. Last year, a pick-up truck driver traveling 55 mph hit the back of a tractor, which had slowed because of a construction zone. After the first collision, a school bus struck the back of the pick-up and a second school bus hit the first. In total, 38 people were injured and a 15-year-old student and the 19-year-old pick-up driver died. The pick-up truck driver was talking on the phone.

The issue in this debate ought to be choice. What does that mean? Put down the cheeseburger and throw your phone in the back of your car. Understand and accept that you are driving, and it is in your best interest not risk potential financial ruin or your own demise and just concentrate on driving. That’s it. Think first, don’t just react to texts or calls and choose to focus. I don’t need the government to tell me that.

Taurean Small:

As much as I hate to be “that guy,” I have to agree with this proposed bill to penalize anyone driving while using their phone.

Banning the use of cell phones, while driving at least, just may be the answer to my prayers. I can’t count the number of times I’ve injured myself trying to roll out of the way of a texter behind the wheel.

I don’t see why ignoring your phone for a few minutes while trying to operate a metal death machine, more commonly referred to as a car, is such a big deal. What is so important that it needs to be taken care of right away?

Although it is may be a bit difficult to remember, imagine how much safer you felt riding in the car with your parents when cell phones didn’t exist. Think about how they didn’t need an electronic device at their hip all the time and how much more attention you and your siblings and everyone else got because of it. Back in those days, the driver’s hands were at 10 and two, and their eyes were glued to the windshield.

Ever since the gradual introduction of the mobile technology boom, these practices were followed less and less.

I can remember the days when my father had a car phone and had to pull over and park his car just to make calls from it. Nowadays, I see people on the highway playing Angry Birds while driving 60 mph. As much as I love my Android phone, no app is worth more than my life.

While I think turning your phone off completely is most effective, leaving your phone in a bag or somewhere hidden while driving will suffice. The point is to remove all distractions while driving so you can devote your attention to me: the innocent pedestrian trying to get across the street. And, of course, so I can avoid becoming the innocent pedestrian under your car.

Also think about the innocent bike riders with whom you are supposed to share the streets. As much as I hate be cut off by a speeding bicyclist, I see why they avoid riding in the streets. But then again, many times I have been grazed by a bike was because the bicyclist was also distracted by using his cell phone while riding.

When will the madness end?

Clearly the solution to this cycle of inattentiveness is for the bill to include a complete ban on using cell phones while in motion.

I dread crossing the streets of DeKalb because I have to regularly dodge both negligent drivers and walking pedestrians who are too attached to their mobile devices. It’s bad enough I have to defend my right-of-way over drivers, but colliding with a texter on foot is just ridiculous. No matter how slow someone is moving, if that person is using a phone, I can guarantee he or she is causing a problem for someone.

I recommend lawmakers encourage police officers to stop anyone using a cell phone while in motion.

And I recommend frequent mobile device users, while moving at least, to put down the phone.