Cell phones: The urge to punish

No ticket warranted here. Note that this is a mere illustration, as a look at the speedometer bears out.

No ticket warranted here. Note that this is a mere illustration, as a look at the speedometer bears out.

What is it that some members of the legislature seem to have against the people of Oregon that they want to punish us every chance they get?

The Senate Judiciary Committee has just voted for a bill that would increase the maximym fine for using a hand-held cell phone while driving from $250 to $1,000. One thousand dollars for answering the phone? Come on, where is the reason in that?

The bill is being pushed by Peter Courtney, a Democrat from Salem and the longtime president of the Senate. So it stands a good chance of passing, despite the sensible objections of senators such as Betsy Close of Albany. During Tuesday's committee hearing, she voted against the bill and worried that the proposed fines are too severe, especially considering that many potential violators are young people.

That's one reasonable objection. Another is that cell phone use while driving continues despite the 2009 law against it because it is very hard to enforce. It's not because the fines are too low. It's because we don't have enough cops to watch every driver, and those we do have usually have more pressing calls that need a response.

There's another reason why thousand-dollar fines for those offenses are out of line. It is that the law applies only to hand-held phones but exempts the ones that can be operated hands free. But what's distracting while driving is not holding something to your ear. It's having a conversation on the phone. So the risk of causing an accident is the same, but only one kind of phoning is against the law and subject to stiff fines. Where is the sense in that?

The point has been made that other activities while driving -- such as applying makeup, having lunch, reading a map or a book -- are just as distracting as a phone call. If we take this seriously and pass more laws, just where is it going to end? Instead, it would be better for legislators to show some restraint and give citizens credit or acting reponsibly most of the time. (hh)

From Ray Kopczynski: "During Tuesday's committee hearing, she [Betsy Close] voted against the bill and worried that the proposed fines are too severe, especially considering that many potential violators are young people." On the other hand, would that send a viable message to those folks who get caught and are fined - regardless of the age?  I honestly believe that the majority of "fines" are woefully inadequate to get a point across for any infraction/violation of the law.
Yes, it appears some folks are trying to "protect us from ourselves."  But IF one person could be saved from injury (or worse) by someone not using a cell phone while driving, I have no qualms about supporting the bill. That there are myriad other ways to be distracted while driving is not relevant to this particular issue IMO.
From Ted Salmons: If, and it's a big if.  Talking on cell phones is so distracting and dangerous to all of humanity and small creatures too then flat out outlaw their use in moving vehicles. No exceptions. Absolutely no exceptions unless your accelerator is stuck and you're hurtling down the freeway at 80 miles per hour. If it dangerous then it's dangerous for anybody to do it. Oh yeah, those fancy computers the police love so much.  Install an interlock switch so the display goes dark unless the vehicle is in park. If it's a safety issue then it's a safety issue. If it's BS then it's BS.
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