Cell phone bill punishes innocent, guilty alike

Virtually anyone with a driver’s license these days has experienced the frustration of sharing the road with others who were more interested in their cell phone conversation than the road.

Consequently, a measure being pushed by state Sen. Tracey Eide (D-Federal Way) in the upoming legislative session that would make cell phone use in cars a primary offense has a built-in support base despite its inherent flaws.

Currently, using a cell phone is a secondary offense — meaning you cannot be pulled over simply for using one, but if you were stopped for another offense you could be ticketed for your phone use, too.

Under the proposed bill, however, cell phone use by a driver would be a primary offense, meaning you could get a ticket just for having a phone to your ear.

Again, it’s hard to be sympathetic when so many drivers abuse the privilege by turning their car into a rolling office or singles bar. But it bears noting that a.) not everyone who takes or makes a cell phone call on the road is a hazard, and; b.) there are ways to be distracted other than cell phone use.

Would a driver searching in the glove compartment for a CD or arguing with their spouse in the next seat present a danger to other drivers? How about eating a sandwich or smoking a cigarette?

For that matter, even a bad headache can affect a driver’s concentration, but we don’t pass laws that would pre-emptively allow a state trooper to pull you over for not taking an aspirin.

No one is suggesting we go soft on people who have dangerous habits behind the wheel. The point is that you can’t legislate all the risk out of your life, and it’s pointless to scapegoat all cell phone use just because a tiny percentage of those who talk while driving be involved in accidents.

If someone causes an accident while distracted — for whatever reason — punish them. But don’t persecute those who haven’t done anything wrong and in all probability never will.

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