In Texas, currently, it is illegal to talk on your cell phone while driving a vehicle in a school zone during school zone hours while moving without a hands-free headset-fine $200. If your vehicle is stopped, it is ok. School zone hours are posted on a sign, with a lower speed limit and a warning about the cell phone law, typically with flashing lights indicating that the school zone hours are being enforced. Any other time and place has no law whatsoever against the use of a mobile device while driving, nor any restrictions on how a mobile device shall be used.
This may change in one city soon.
How absurd is that? The school zone law is a state-wide ordinance, and is well posted throughout the state, at the limit of every school zone, which is well defined. However, city limits, especially when cut off in the middle of a neighborhood, are not as clearly defined, and this new law will only apply in Arlington, Texas.
How do I know about it? Media coverage. My mom was watching the news and told me about the possible city ordinance. Do I know whether or not they passed the ordinance? Not a clue. I've tried to find information, but no clear cut "passed" or "didn't pass".
Now, I'm all for safe driving. I love when people drive safe. I have no problem, though, with the use of cell phones with driving, when it comes to certain people. Certain people, in fact, can use a cell phone while driving, it's called multitasking. Some people really can pull it off, and be just as attentive. There are those, however, that cannot, but still do anyway. Understandable that they would want to pass an ordinance.
What doesn't make sense, though, is that it's not the hand holding the phone that is the problem with the drivers. It is the distraction of being in a conversation with another person- just as if one were to be in a conversation with other passengers in the car. Engaging in conversations themselves are the distractions, not the holding of a cell phone. I can hold a phone all the way home, but it doesn't make it a distraction. I'm sure that's the case with the majority of the population. So why does a hands-free device make it any better? The person is still engaging in conversation, just in a more discreet manner. Safer? Probably not.
In my case, I often call people on the road because it keeps me alert, rather than submitting to the ever so dreadful highway hypnosis, as they call it in drivers' education. I've actually caught myself becoming a victim, even singing to the music. However, when I'm forced into thought processing, even if I'm not actually talking to the person about anything except the highway, it grounds me, so I don't start going cross-eyed on the road. Unfortunately, I don't have a hands-free headset, because Jabra is a crappy brand, and doesn't work.
What will get me is the enforcement of this. You see, in Arlington, there is a major university, where national and international students alike come every year, this year peaking at 35,000 student enrollment last I checked. That's not to include community colleges. Just University of Texas at Arlington, my (now) alma mater.
When these people, some of whom commute from Ft. Worth or other places in the metroplex, some of whom are from a different country, come to Arlington, how are they to know when, where, and how the rules are applicable to them? I don't currently know the city limits of Arlington. I also know that within Arlington, there are several independent cities, two of which are Pantego and Dalworthington Gardens...do the laws apply there too? Where do the limits start and stop? What if I pick up my phone outside limits, and drop it once I enter the city?
And this also begs another question- what about travelers? Do they expect travelers to look up the cell phone laws of every single city they will be traveling through in order to make certain that they follow all the cell phone laws? Will they let people off the hook if they're not from the area? Will that be fair to residents, if travelers are let off the hook?
So, I wonder, is it really responsible, and, furthermore, reasonable, for a city to make this kind of ordinance? It seems sort of unreasonable to me. If they want to make any sort of notification for this, they will have to post it at any point where a person enters the city, as well as any points of uncertainty...wouldn't this be ineffective cost-wise? Plus, we must consider- how many accidents really are the result of a phone call? How many are the result of other things? Is it more reasonable to find some other way to prevent traffic collisions?
Please, Arlington, consider your population. Consider how many people you draw in for Six Flags, Dallas Cowboys games, Texas Rangers games, Dallas Stars games, etc., and how this could affect attendance. Think about the people who would be affected by a law they might not even know about. Think about the actual effectiveness of this law, and whether it is really, truly called for. Are there other, more pertinent issues on the table...for instance, public transportation, seeing as we're living in the largest metro area with no public transport?
All things taken into consideration, I think that this is just another law that should probably be passed over. This is a state issue- if they really want it banned, it should be taken to a state level, so that the entire public, not just the partial population of one city and whoever watched the news that night is aware of these changes. We don't need to be funneling money into the police department because they keep finding ways to ticket us. Besides, like I said, I don't even know where the Arlington city limits are. Where do I drop my phone? Hm?
Besides, again, it is not holding the device that's dangerous. Reconsider what you're looking at. Revise your plans to fit the needs of the public. If you have a really big issue, take it up with the state so that there is a higher level of awareness. Address the real problem, and in a practical way. People are going to continue to use cell phones, so we need to find a more practical solution.