Man Without Qualities

Monday, June 23, 2003

What's Distracting?

More than isolated studies have indicated that the increase in car accidents associated with cellular telephones is attributable to the mental distraction of the call - and not the physical distraction of fumbling with the physical cell phone handset. Nevertheless, many intelligent people and many legislators insist that it is the physical fumbling that matters.

California, for example, is seriously considering legislation requiring the use of "hands free" cell phones in cars. Such legislation would be worthless, if the studies are correct. States must simply determine whether drivers should be allowed to talk on cell telephones at all.

But if cell telephone calls are to be banned because they are distracting, why should the driver be allowed to talk to anyone - including passengers? If cell phone conversations are distracting and cause accidents, surely in-person, in-car conversations are more so.

And if legislatures are determined to remain fixated on the physical fumbling of the hand set, why should consumption of cigarettes, coffee and food by drivers in cars not all be banned?

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