I just sent the following message to my state legislators.
From: Bill Starr
To: Senator Greg Walker; Representative Sean Eberhart
Cc: Representative Eric Allan Koch; Representative Milo Smith
Sent: Sat, 6 Feb 2010, 8:39 am EST
Subject: NO on ban of cell phone use while driving -- good article
Thank you for your service to the citizens of Indiana.
As I wrote you on January 27, I still urge you to vote NO on any measure to criminalize the use of cell phones or other electronic devices while driving.
I recently came across a good article on this subject by Caleb Allen, a student at Rose-Hulman from Fort Wayne. Caleb does a very good job of explaining my objections to this sort of bill.
Caleb's iBlogger: Why There Should Be No Ban On Texting-and-driving
I encourage you to read the whole article, but here are a few of Caleb's thoughts that I liked and agree with, and that help to explain my objections as well.
"Law enforcement officers (LEOs) have no legal way of determining if you are texting.... There are legal reasons to be looking at your phone and pressing buttons (or touching the screen) while driving.... If the officer asks you if you were texting, the Constitution protects you from answering. If the officer asks (or even "orders") you to produce your phone for inspection, the same Constitution protects you from unreasonable search and seizure without 1) a warrant or 2) probable cause."
"The exercise of your Fifth Amendment right is not an admission of guilt and cannot be used as such.... Since there are legal reasons to be pushing buttons (or touching the screen) of a phone, the fact that you were doing so does not provide probable cause for a search or seizure of your phone, and neither does refusing to tell the LEO if you were texting develop probable cause.... So, without probable cause or a warrant to search your wireless phone (or a subpoena for your phone records), there is no legal way for an officer of the law to determine if a driver was to be in violation of the "Texting While Driving Law"."
"The real cause of accidents is not texting or even using a wireless phone; it is driver negligence.... No matter what causes that distraction, it is the responsibility of the driver to make sure that his vehicle does not hit anything. Most accidents result from driver negligence -- neglecting to fulfill his responsibility to keep his vehicle from hitting something."
"Regulating distractions doesn't work. Regulating driving will.... The percentage of car accidents attributed to dialing a cell phone is nearly identical to the number associated with talking or listening on a cell phone or bluetooth headset."
"Let us create a "Distracted Driving Law" that is based on your driving, not what you're doing.... Behavior that is generally indicative of being an impaired driver should be banned rather than each and every single little thing which could possibly contribute to impaired driving.... The LEO can clearly observe if the vehicle is being operated in a reckless manner. This is much easier to enforce..."
"Finally, this approach lets us stop writing laws about it!"
"Don't let your legislature enact another "feel good" law with demonstrably little effect on stemming the real problem. Instead, let us encourage them to use some common sense and write a better law.... Tell your Indiana legislators you oppose this bill, and all others like it, not because you think texting and driving is safe, but because it is a foolhardy approach to establishing roadway safety."