I Just Love My Meddling Legislators!

|

California's newspaper reporters are on the beat, seeing what citizens think of the brand-new cell phone ban (no phones in cars if you're under 18, headsets only if you're older). From Marin:

"I love it," said Alex Chapman, 25, of Terra Linda. "I don't like talking on my phone in the car, so this is a reason for me to ignore it in the car without being rude… People are slow to change. It's going to take a few tickets to get the point across. You've got to hit people in their wallets to make it stick."

From L.A.:

Dave Troop accompanied his wife to Fry's Electronics in Woodland Hills on Tuesday to purchase a new Bluetooth. He agrees with the law and has been using a Bluetooth for years. "I think it will save lives, especially the way my wife drives," he said with a laugh.

From San Jose:

Yahoo employee and Fremont resident Dennis Chu was among those shopping for a Bluetooth headset Monday. His previous headset was a wired one. "It was a pain . . . to use because the wire gets in the way," he said.

Basically, Americans actually talk like Onion men-on-the-street, minus the cool names.

NEXT: Now Playing at Reason.tv—producer Clay Epstein on the films the world wants to see (and is allowed to see).

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Which is why libertarianism will never succeed.

  2. Those people are Californians.Not really represenative of Americans.

  3. But, if you didn’t want to use your phone in the car…or if you already wanted a Bluetooth…

    *head explodes in a gooey mess of trying to comprehend the irrational*

  4. They actually sound like people from Chicago as well. Maybe it’s just a big city thing.

  5. Um, if all these people shopping for a headset wanted one before, why didn’t they get one?

  6. Oh, wait, there’s already a handy term for this: the Stockholm Syndrome.

    *realizes this doesn’t make it any less senseless and resumes stupidity-induced seizure*

  7. The dude was too weak to simply turn off his cell phone? He requires the excuse that the State won’t let him use one without a fancy headset he “can’t afford?”

    Passive Aggressive citizenry at its finest.

    To be fair, when I was 15, I liked the new seatbelt laws because it allowed me to wear a seatbelt without getting hassled by my peers.

    I guess 25 (the age of Chapman) is the new 15.

  8. How can a police officer tell if the operator of a car is over or under 18 by sight? Won’t this basically be used as a blanket cause to pull over anyone under the age of 25?

    Oh wait, that’s what these laws are for.

  9. To be fair, the police can pull over a driver for the cause of talking on a hand-held phone. They can’t pull over a driver for suspecting they are too young to be using a hands-free one.

    They have to use one of their other six hundred and thirty-seven excuses for that.

  10. Basically, Americans actually talk like Onion men-on-the-street, minus the cool names.

    But aren’t you a tiny bit jealous that the onion hasn’t used yours yet? Does the rest of the reason staff make fun of you for not being in the in crowd? Why does this article cause the adsense to bring up a Korean dating site? (ok, that last one is not really related. OR IS IT? *dum dum dum*)

  11. The reporter doing the street interviews could have spun this any direction they wanted to. Ask ten people and I guarantee at least one is going to call bullshit on this law. They chose to run the story with these idiots flapping their jaws about whatever the fuck came to their mind when the reporter asked them the question. It’s not like they took a poll of people who had taken more than two seconds to think the issue over.

  12. Screw democracy. I don’t care how many billions vote to take away my rights.

    They just better hope and pray I’m not in their face some day.

  13. But aren’t you a tiny bit jealous that the onion hasn’t used yours yet?

    A tiny bit. But only tiny.

  14. I refuse to buy something for this bullshit.

    I’m rigging up a headset made out of a spare cheap headphone, which will hold the phone next to my head.

    Alternate idea: use tape or a suction cup to stick the phone to the window at ear height.

    This is the dumbest law ever. Hands-free has the same death/accident rate as hand-held, according to an article I read the other day. But they know that a total ban is unrealistic, so they’ll do something annoying and useless instead.

    I’d love to ship the “If it makes us safer…” sheeple off to some other planet. Everytime someone bans something useful or fun, they pop up everywhere like cockroaches.

  15. “I don’t like calling on my phone, so nobody else should be allowed to” That’s real mature reasoning.

  16. I’m just glad that the cops have one more reason on the list of “probable causes” to pull you over and search your vehicle.

    I’m sure it won’t get abused.

  17. People don’t kill people . . . cellphones do. Uhhhhhh . . . that is the reasoning right?

  18. Guys, do you think we could lobby for a law to make it illegal to consume a drink (any drink- lattes, coffee, sodas) while driving? Starbucks drivethru’s would become instantly illegal.

    You’d literally be selling an open container to a driver through his window.

  19. Maybe I’m just weird but when I see other drivers looking like schizophrenics appears more distracting than holding a phone.

    People on these things are always very absorbed in what looks like frantic conversations with themselves. They run into things and people and you wonder if they are talking to you.

    Is the act of simply holding a handset that much more dangerous than being deeply involved in a conversation with some thing in your ear?

    I don’t need 2 hands to drive. On straight stretches of highway I usually drive with my knees. But i am aware of the road.

  20. Not one mention in the comments about how, if your are driving while holding a cell phone in your hand and talking, you cannot safely use your turn signal while maintaining control of the steering wheel. Here in Ohio, you must signal your turn 100 feet before the intended turn. People using one hand to hold their phone are incapable, or unwilling, to follow this law. That’s not even mentioning the requirement to signal lane changes, which cell phone using drivers generally completely ignore. I wish it didn’t require a law, which is going to be used badly, but the hands-on cell phone drivers are at best an annoyance, and at worst a danger. I recognize that many here will fall at different points along that spectrum.

  21. Not one mention in the comments about how, if your are driving while holding a cell phone in your hand and talking, you cannot safely use your turn signal while maintaining control of the steering wheel.

    I hope I’m not being impolite, but may I ask where your turn signal is? For a lot of people, it’s somewhere near the steering wheel.

    I thought about noting that you must not drive a stick shift, but maybe that’s where your turn signal is.

    People using one hand to hold their phone are incapable, or unwilling, to follow this law.

    Uh… maybe, just maybe, the police should pull them over for failure to signal.

  22. John-David –

    If I’ve got a cell phone in my right hand and my left hand is on the steering wheel right by the turning signal, I can just flick out a finger to toggle the signal in either direction (as I do when I have both hands on the wheel).

    The real problem is that many people don’t signal regardless of cell phone situation. Especially for lane changes.

  23. But the California law has a loophole that allows texting while driving.

  24. Pinette: Don’t worry, Weigel’s going to go out and engage some regular Citizens in a SocraticDialog about this issue any moment now.

    I’m still waiting to see someone follow the money on this new laws; someone might have done it, but certainly not here.

  25. Not one mention in the comments about how, if your are driving while holding a cell phone in your hand and talking, you cannot safely use your turn signal while maintaining control of the steering wheel.

    I normally hold my phone with my right hand. My left hand can comfortably reach the turn signal stalk without being removed from the steering wheel. Are the ergonomics in your car so poor that you need to take your hand off the steering wheel to indicate a turn?

  26. What in the world makes you think I cannot safely operate my goddamn vehicle while using my cell phone? Do you really believe that it is impossible to operate the signal while using a cell phone?
    I think there needs to be a law prohibiting walking while chewing gum.

  27. The only thing that has changed is that it is no longer legal to hold a cell phone to your ear while driving sans an “emergency”.

    Screaming into your cell phone via speaker is just fine as is holding the phone in your right hand and texting while steering with your left.

    Also still legal: Screaming at children in the backseat with or without use of the rear view mirror. Driving with your eyes closed. Stuffing your face with fast food while going 75 mph on the freeway (15 mph during rush hour of course). Holding a lit cigarette while driving (so long as minors are not in the car). Fucking with the radio, hookers from east hollywood, your blue tooth headset, remote control or watching television while driving.

    People in my state are tools.

  28. orange line, you can bet your ass bluetooth lobbied for this. The sad thing is that this knowledge probably wouldn’t make the slightest difference to most people.

  29. “I love it,” said Alex Chapman, 25, of Terra Linda. “I don’t like talking on my phone in the car, so this is a reason for me to ignore it in the car without being rude…

    What a fucking wuss.

  30. To really keep everyone safe, there should be a law that you can only use your cell phone when you are inside, sitting down, and within 8 feet of a wall outlet.

  31. When I first read this I thought about how many people use cell phones when they drive. It’s a shitload of people. Why didn’t these people call and write their legislators and say “WTF? Don’t vote for such a law of I will vote against you and give money to your opponent?” Jesus we have an apathetic and uninformed electorate to let this pass…

  32. Not one mention in the comments about how, if your are driving while holding a cell phone in your hand and talking, you cannot safely use your turn signal while maintaining control of the steering wheel.

    John-David.

    You’ve convinced me, there should be a law keeping you from driving… with a cell phone.

    The rest of us will talk with the phone on our shoulder, as god intended, thus leaving both hands free.

  33. I was just thinking, what we in California really needed was another law and another thing that’s illegal.

    This law is fucked. I refuse to follow it. Whether using a bluetooth (without question the fucks who successfully lobbied for this bullshit) or holding the phone to your ear, the problem isn’t your hands, it’s the significant portion of your brain that is distracted from driving safely. However, the same thing happens when you’re talking to someone next to you in the car, so let me just say this: fuck everyone who voted for and passed this law.

  34. I wonder how much in campaign contributions the backers of this law got from the corporation that makes Bluetooth?

  35. Do you all understand how bizarre this thread reads to anybody not already in the cult?

  36. The only studies that I saw mentioned in the articles said that hands-free was no more safe than normal talking.

    Is there any actual evidence that this is safer?

  37. Do you all understand how bizarre this thread reads to anybody not already in the cult?

    If I’m reading you right, joe, then all I can say is (r)amen. Obviously nobody here has ever been cut off without warning by someone talking on their cellphone while driving. I’m more than willing to agree that the issue the cops should focus on is the shitty way people drive, but I’m yet to see someone pulled over for switching lanes without signaling. I’m really glad there are so many people here able to drive properly whilst talking on their cell phones, but the fact is, the overwhelming majority of people who are not intelligent enough to participate on this board are incapable of doing so.

  38. We are very happy to hear of this new law.

    Yes – it’s a good life!

    Very, very good!

  39. Do you all understand how bizarre this thread reads to anybody not already in the cult?

    Dude, it sounds bizarre to me too, and I read Reason nearly ever day. I think this is another one of those instances where I’m simply a bad libertarian. As far as I’m concerned a car is a lethal weapon and needs to be regulated as such if being driven on public roads. I’d like to feel confident that other drivers are paying attention to the world around them. People in the Bay Area don’t seem notably insane behind the wheel, but there is still too much aggression, *everyone* drives too fast, and – my particular pet peeve – the freeway interchanges were designed by morons. I feel unsafe crossing the street, and riding my bicycle can be a profoundly terrifying experience.

    There are not many possible laws of any type that I can think of that would genuinely make me feel safer on a day-to-day basis. This one does. Forget about the assault weapons ban – cars still kill more people than guns in this country. Or, more precisely, idiots driving cars kill people. Y’all think you can handle the car and the phone at the same time? I don’t believe you, and I’m not willing to risk my life every time I drive by trusting you. I can drive just fine stoned, but I’m not about to start arguing for *that* to be legal either.

    The big downside is that this law is going to be used as yet another fundraising tool, like the mandatory seatbelt law (which I agree is an execrable case of nanny-statism). And inevitably, I’m going to forget about it one day and answer a call at exactly the wrong moment. You won’t hear me whining about it, though. Either pull over or ignore the goddamn phone.

  40. Nat: it would seem that your issues could be corrected by cops stepping up enforcement of laws related to driving unsafely for any reason. I’m sure that some people can do certain things safely and others can’t, and that for the latter group it’s a habitual issue that increased enforcement could catch at a statistically meaningful rate.

    As for following the money, see the last link I left.

    (For Reason’s contributors: what you then need to do is cross-check those names against contributions.)

    If you enjoyed this comment, visit me by clicking my name’s link.

  41. I try to avoid cell phone use while I am driving. If someone calls, I answer quickly and inform them that I am driving and cannot talk. If I cannot suffer a distraction due to traffic or weather conditions, I do not answer the telephone or I pull over where I can.

    I avoid cars when I see their drivers on the phone. I make space, change lanes, do what I can to keep myself, my vehicle, and my passengers (if any) safe.

    By no means am I a perfect driver, and I will be the first to admit cell phone use impairs my ability to perform my responsibilities as a driver. To be honest, I hate the damn things, but there are times when they are more than just a convenience, and that is why I keep one in my car.

    I am a better judge than the state about when it is acceptable and when it is not to use a cell phone in the car. That others lack such judgment is not the result of any action or lack of action on my part.

    Furthermore, it makes no difference the manner in which I communicate. It is certainly more convenient to use a hands-free device or the speakerphone, but my concentration is no less diverted with different media.

    Those who do not take a strong view of individual liberty-and even some who do-may find this law sensible and practical. To them, the cost in potential injuries and lost lives outweighs all else. I can certainly see some reason in that.

    Nevertheless, it is disconcerting to hear of individuals who gleefully surrender some judgment to the state. It is moreover an insult to those of us who do exercise restraint, who consider the consequences of our actions before we take them, to be told that we are unfit to make such decisions.

    When we give something to the state, it tends to keep it, and we thus lose something of ourselves in the process.

  42. Do the people at the LA Daily News understand that Bluetooth is a protocol, not a device? You don’t buy “a Bluetooth.” That sounds like something my 77-year-old non-tech-savvy father would say. I wonder if they would also write of buying “a WiFi” instead of “a wireless router”? You’d think they would at least have some copy editor who knows that Bluetooth is used as an adjective for a headset (or other device), not as the noun itself. But I guess I’m just a cranky old ex-newspaper editor who’s ranting about how “kids these days don’t know anything.” 🙂

  43. Dude, it sounds bizarre to me too, and I read Reason nearly ever day.

    Agreed. I’m in the cult, but I don’t think this is an unreasonable law. Even if we all lived in libertopian rainbox monkey island where all roads are privately-owned, it’s likely there would be rules about not futzing around with a cell phone while you’re supposed to be paying attention to your driving.

  44. “cars still kill more people than guns in this country. Or, more precisely, idiots driving cars kill people. Y’all think you can handle the car and the phone at the same time? I don’t believe you, and I’m not willing to risk my life every time I drive by trusting you.”

    Then just don’t drive.

    The statistics prove that talking on a cell phone “hands free” is no safer than driving while holding the phone to your ear. This law does nothing to make us any safer. All it is designed to do is what you already pointed out: generate revenue.

    There are countless high risk behaviors that drivers engage in that aren’t against the law the fact that this is singled out is ridiculous.

    If they want to ban cars I’ll accuse them of being impractical nanny statists but at least admit they are logical. This isn’t even that.

  45. “I love it,” said Alex Chapman, 25, of Terra Linda. “I don’t like talking on my phone in the car, so this is a reason for me to ignore it in the car without being rude…

    In a related incident, Eve Holbrook, formerly of New York, actually approached a police officer voluntarily to let him make sure she wasn’t talking on her cell phone while driving. “It just gives me a sense of comfort,” she said. “I went up there of my own free will.”

  46. I don’t like the idea of banning cell phones while driving, but I am less than outraged by it from my personal observation that people talking on cell phones while driving uniformly drive poorly.

  47. “I think it will save lives, especially the way my wife drives,”

    They let women drive there? What’s next, voting?

    I hear they did reinstitute the smoking ban. Some call that progress . . .

  48. Admittedly I’m more anti-social than your average human, but for god’s sake, what the hell are all these people talking about?

  49. I agree with some others that laws like this aren’t all the terrible when looking at the long list of laws supposedly designed to protect us from ourselves.

    Granted, singling out hand-held cellphones while ignoring eating, radio-tuning, GPS-fiddling, yelling at kids, etc. is irrational and arbitrary. Here in CT, we have a similar law. And hypocritically, I ignore it when it suits me. But I won’t complain too much if I get pinched for it.

  50. Then just don’t drive.

    I try not to – in fact, it’s actually easier and cheaper for me to take the bus to work, so I typically only drive my car 2-3 days out of the week. But since I’m paying for those roads too, I shouldn’t have to avoid them just to stay out of the way of psychopaths who can’t be bothered to pay attention to other cars. More importantly, I shouldn’t have to be worried about walking across the street. Even if I have the right-of-way, I don’t cross in front of a moving car unless I a) make eye contact with the driver or b) am certain I can get out of the way in time.

    Am I unusually paranoid? Hell yes, that’s why I lean libertarian on almost all issues – I simply don’t trust anyone. In this particular case, my distrust of my fellow citizens outweighs my distrust of California legislators, who are typically stupid, corrupt, and wasteful, but rarely outright dangerous.

    By the way, in case this wasn’t clear: I don’t give a shit if this law prevents cell-phone users from damaging themselves (like the seatbelt law and the helmet law are supposed to), I only care if it prevents them from damaging everyone else. Ditto for speeding, drunk-driving, etc. These are public-safety issues, not nanny-state issues.

    I hear they did reinstitute the smoking ban. Some call that progress . . .

    Now that’s an excellent example of a useless law that *doesn’t* make me feel any safer. Besides, my tax money isn’t paying to build bars and restaurants.

  51. Those of you who think this ban is a good idea seem to be under the false impression that banning talking on a phone held to your ear but not banning talking on a phone not held to your ear will somehow make you safer.

    I avoid cars when I see their drivers on the phone. I make space, change lanes, do what I can to keep myself, my vehicle, and my passengers (if any) safe.

    And now you’re still going to have the exact same bad drivers using the phone, but it’s going to be much harder to tell if they’re on the phone or not. Feel safer yet?

  52. I doubt that there’s any conspiracy by Bluetooth manufacturers or any such nefarious plan behind this one. The sponsor, State Senator Joe Simitian, is just a guy who has an attitude of “I’m a legislator, so I better get busy making some laws.”

    He even has a “There Oughta Be A Law” contest every year where students write to him with their ideas of new laws that oughta be. The local Libertarians have contemplated countering by sponsoring something like a “There Ought To Be A Repealed Law” contest.

  53. Those of you who think this ban is a good idea seem to be under the false impression that banning talking on a phone held to your ear but not banning talking on a phone not held to your ear will somehow make you safer.

    For the record, I didn’t say it was a good idea. I only argue that it’s not an unreasonable encroachment on our liberties to have traffic safety laws. We’d have them in libertopia, too. If statistics really do clearly show that requiring hands-free phones isn’t really going to make the public roads safer, then it’s a dumb law.

  54. Y’all think you can handle the car and the phone at the same time? I don’t believe you, and I’m not willing to risk my life every time I drive by trusting you. I can drive just fine stoned, but I’m not about to start arguing for *that* to be legal either.

    Do it every day. Never been in an accident. Ever. I’ve had one ticket in the last 22 years, in what was described as a “dragnet”. It was during this event. When I’m driving and not talking on my phone, I drive with one hand: The left. When I’m driving when I’m talking on my cell phone, I drive with one hand: The left.

    I will take any pepsi driving challenge any time, anywhere and my driving while talking on my cell phone will be exactly the same. All I request is that the people observing my driving not know whether I’m talking on a cell phone or not. A blind study, if you will.

    I have no idea what’s going on with you ‘tards that can’t hold an object in one hand and drive with the other (standard shift, anyone?– geez) but I am admitting I’m slowly becoming convinced. Apparently, there are enough people out there that actually can’t chew gum and drive at the same time, so maybe this law isn’t such a bad idea. There seems to be no shortage of people who demand this law because they admit that once a small electronic object appears in one hand (what, your frickin’ mother never taught you to hold a phone on your shoulder?) that their driving resembles someone totally intoxicated.

    No, wanting this law for the reasons you state doesn’t make you a bad libertarian, it just shows that maybe you shouldn’t be behind the wheel of a car. At all. If the difference between you driving normally and driving like you’re stoned is to have a conversation on a cell phone then it’s just too thin a line. Meaning that we need to reconsider who we’re issuing licenses to, not if we should allow cell phones in cars.

    I have a new idea: No one gets a license if they can’t talk on a cell phone and keep their car between the little yellow lines. Just make it part of the driving test. Problem solved.

  55. What makes this law so bone-crushingly stupid is that the one thing it regulates (holding an object to your heard) is the one thing about using a cell phone that is not bad for your driving.

    (1) Dialing a cell phone – distracting, and still legal.

    (2) Answering a cell phone – distracting, and still legal.

    (3) Talking on a cell phone – distracting, and still legal.

    (4) Holding a cell phone to your head – not distracting, but illegal.

  56. Seriously, all you have to do is say “I am not comfortable talking on the phone while driving, so I never answer my cell in the car.” Your friends and loved ones will respect you for it!

  57. “By the way, in case this wasn’t clear: I don’t give a shit if this law prevents cell-phone users from damaging themselves (like the seatbelt law and the helmet law are supposed to), I only care if it prevents them from damaging everyone else. Ditto for speeding, drunk-driving, etc. These are public-safety issues, not nanny-state issues.

    As I said before if this law achieved that I would at least be sympathetic to it from a logical standpoint.

    This law doesn’t do that though because it still allows hands-free cell phone use which, again, as I’ve already said, has been repeatedly proven to be just as dangerous.

    This law does not make anyone safer. It’s just a scam by the state to make money.

  58. Hey, like I said, I’m having a conversion on this theory. My best friend’s wife just said that he can’t drive and talk on the cell phone. He freaks out, starts weaving all over the place, and eventually drops the cell phone in the footwell in panic.

    So it appears that the law must have merit. I still say that we shouldn’t issue licenses to people who can’t talk on a cell phone and drive safely.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.