Honolulu Lite


Wednesday, May 16, 2001

Let your fingers
(and brain)
do the driving

It turns out that cellular phone use is the No. 1 cause of newspaper editorials about automobile accidents. A recent national survey showed that eight out of 10 newspaper editorials regarding traffic accidents mentioned cell phones. It's clear that if people would stop using cell phones in their cars, newspapers would stop writing editorials about traffic accidents, or something like that.

The Star-Bulletin this week had a great editorial about the connection between cell phones and auto accidents. It was full of all the numbers editorial writers are required to use under the Federal Editorial Writers Mandatory Data Utilization Act of 1914. Columnists are under no such restraints and, indeed, see statistics, research data and other hairy facts as impediments to lively writing. I rapidly scanned in-depth recent articles and editorials concerning cell phones and automobiles and determined that the general beef is:

1. You don't use a car in your office, so you shouldn't use your cell phone in your car.

2. Cellular phones are a distraction while driving, particularly if you have them set on vibrate and the phone is deep in your pocket and you're listening to a Barry White CD when you receive a phone call.

3. Driving a car is not like participating in a circus act. Increasing the difficulty of driving by talking on cellular phones, wearing a blindfold or balancing a Chinese acrobat on your head is not necessary.

These are all good points. Where I diverge from my periodical pundit pals is the contention that using a cell phone while driving is somehow worse than doing other things while driving. Using a cellular phone while driving might even save your life. Say you're talking to one of those Caribbean Psychic Network ladies and she's flipping over Tarot cards and says, "I see danger, my brother. Your girlfriend is cheating on you and you're about to slam head-on into truck full of large, angry tree trimmers from some exotic Polynesian isle." You swerve out of the way of the oncoming truck with less than a second to spare.

I'm not sticking up for people who use their phones while driving. I think they are idiots. Well, I think most drivers are idiots, including me. I've used a cell phone while driving but I swear I do not listen to Barry White. (And I only drove with an acrobat on my head once.)

But there are so many other dangerous things people do while driving. I drove on a couple of occasions with a steaming cup of Starbucks regular drip between my legs. They put those little plastic lids on the cups but there's a puka in the lid that directs searing hot liquid in a stream directly to the part of your body where it can do the most damage whenever you hit a bump. There's a TV commercial that says your day doesn't start until you get a little "Folgers in your cup." Trust me. You haven't kicked off the morning, until you've had a little "Starbucks in your lap."

So, yes, people shouldn't use cell phones while driving. They shouldn't do anything while driving but drive. We don't need to outlaw phone use in cars, we need to outlaw idiots in cars. And that's going to be very tough.

Alo-Ha! Friday compiles odd bits of news from Hawaii
and the world to get your weekend off to an entertaining start.
Charles Memminger also writes Honolulu Lite Mondays,
Wednesdays and Sundays. Send ideas to him at the
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210,
Honolulu 96813, phone 235-6490 or e-mail

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