Column: Cell phone users kill innocent people
You're driving down the street and you spot the car in front of you weaving back and forth in the traffic lane. There are even times that vehicle in front of you drifts into the oncoming traffic lane. The driver appears to be operating his or her vehicle erratically. You think to yourself, the driver must be drunk and they may kill some innocent person if they don't get off the road.
But when you attempt to pass the weaving car, you see the driver is using their cellular telephone to text or e-mail another person and/or is talking on it. You say to yourself, the driver is concentrating more on their cell phone and not paying enough attention to operating that 6,000-pound hunk of steel they are driving. Yes, it is an accident just waiting to happen.
Why do people believe they can multitask by driving a "legal instrument that can cause death" and use hand-held cell phones at the same time? Driving a motor vehicle takes your upmost concentration, and if you are doing something else in addition to driving, you're not paying enough attention to the road.
Thousands of people are killed each year by drivers talking on cell phones. According to statistics, cell phone distraction causes more than 2,600 deaths and 330,000 injuries in the United States every year. I know by me stressing this point, it is like "the pot calling the kettle black." I am just as guilty as the next person and am a prime example of what drivers should not do while operating a motor vehicle.
I have pulled out of my driveway, and in less than a half of block, I'm calling someone on my cell phone or sending them an e-mail. I never did say I was the sharpest tack in the box.
I've learned my lesson because I'm lucky I didn't became a hood ornament on a semi-truck the other day. I was attempting to multitask while driving northbound on Egar Road in Golden Valley, sending an e-mail and traveling at approximately 45 mph. Was I paying as much attention to my driving as I should have - definitely not! When I "blew over" the cattle guard on Egar just prior to Highway 68, I knew I could be in a lot of trouble or dead, because it was too late for me to slam on my brakes.
Yep, that's right. I drove right through the stop sign and completely across 68. Thank God there wasn't another vehicle traveling either westbound or eastbound. I could have killed myself, or even worse, killed someone else.
Numerous states have passed laws that prohibit the use of cell phones by drivers while they operate their vehicles. Our neighbor, California, has a law on the books that prohibits utilizing a cell phone unless you are using it in the hands-free mode.
There are five states in addition to California (Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Washington), the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands, that prohibit all drivers from talking on hand-held cell phones while driving. With the exception of Washington state, these laws are all primary enforcement - a law enforcement officer may ticket a driver for using a handheld cell phone while driving without any other traffic offense taking place.
No state completely bans all types of cell phone use (hand-held and hands-free) for all drivers, but many prohibit cell phone use by certain segments of the population. Twenty-one states and D.C. ban all cell phone use by novice drivers, and in 17 states (including Arizona) and D.C., school bus drivers are prohibited from all cell phone use when passengers are present.
Text-messaging while driving has grown leaps and bounds over the past few years, and there seems to be no signs of it decreasing. In a study released earlier this year by the American Automobile Association, it was reported that 21 percent of drivers admitted text-messaging while driving.
AAA is championing a 50-state campaign to pass laws prohibiting drivers from texting while behind the wheel. There are currently 18 states and D.C. that have enacted laws addressing this dangerous behavior. According to AAA, they will be actively pushing lawmakers to focus on the issue of driver's texting in the remaining 32 states.
Just because it isn't illegal in Arizona to e-mail, text or use a cell phone and operate a moving vehicle at the same time doesn't make it any less dangerous. Even though there isn't an Arizona law prohibiting most motor vehicle operators from using cell phones while driving a vehicle, drivers can be cited for "careless driving" or "failure to properly control their vehicle in a safe manner" if they drive and use a cell phone at the same time.
What a law enforcement officer observes you doing (e.g.: illegal or unsafe lane change, driving off the roadway, not yielding to another driver or violating a traffic control device) will determine which Arizona Revised Statute you might receive a citation for.
Two statues that deal with failure to properly control your vehicle in a safe manner and careless driving are A.R.S. 28-693 - reckless driving; and A.R.S. 28-695 - aggressive driving.
Reckless driving is a Class 2 misdemeanor and carries a maximum punishment of suspension of driving privileges for 90 days. However, if this is the second offense within a 24-month period, it is a Class 1 misdemeanor and you may be required to serve not less than 20 days in jail.
Aggressive driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor and carries a maximum punishment of having to attend and successfully complete approved traffic-suvival school training and educational sessions designed to improve safety and habits of drivers - and suspension of driving privileges for 30 days. But if it is your second offense within a 24-month period, you may have your driving privileges revoked for a one-year period.
And last but not least, if you are unlucky enough to have caused a motor vehicle accident while utilizing a cell phone and someone is killed, you could lose your driving privileges for five years in addition to any criminal charges you might receive.
Is our time that valuable that we must send e-mails, text and/or chat on the hand-held cell phone while driving? I know it may seem very innocent for some of us to use a cell phone while driving, but we all must take into consideration of what might occur.
Each of us must pay more attention while driving and not use our cell phones, other than in the hands-free mode. If you don't, you might become a statistic, or even worse, have your name in the newspaper article saying you killed a family of five that had been heading to church.
I don't know about you, but I've learned my lesson! When my cell phone chirps a tone indicating I just received an e-mail from someone, I will wait until I've stopped to check out the message. I'm sure it's not more important than my life.