Chapel Hill police were out in force yesterday along MLK Jr. Boulevard, raking in revenue by ticketing speeders. Though on most days cars roar by me going 50 mph at least, yesterday was a different story. As soon as drivers saw a police car, they braked immediately, making it that much more difficult for police to have cause to pull them over.
The argument against a ban on using hand-held cell phones while driving has been that it would be next to impossible to enforce. But a law could at least reduce the incidence of drivers distracted by conversations on their cell phones because a certain percentage of drivers would police themselves. As Council Member Sally Greene said Monday night, if there were a law against drivers using cell phones, she would try harder not to use her phone when she drives.
An additional segment of the population would at least hang up when they saw a police car.
Council Member Penny Rich, who said she didn’t use a cell phone while driving so as to be a good example to her teenage sons — and I’ve long contended that the hardest part about being a parent is having to become a better person than is your wont — said the e-mail she’d received complained about UNC students being the worst offenders. Since Monday, I’ve kept a mental tally of the cell phone offenders on the roads I haunt. Women my age, give or take a decade, and men in office attire and other work clothes, in pickup trucks, service vans and midlife crisis convertibles (albeit with the tops up), far outnumber the chatty drivers I’d peg to be students.
I resisted getting a cell phone for a long time. I figured the only reason I’d use it would be to call people to tell them I was on my way when I was running late. Without a cell phone, I made more of an effort to be on time. I suspect I’m not alone in the ways I’d use a cell phone in the car. My children bought me a phone while I worked at the N&O and regularly drove an unreliable car home from Raleigh at 2 in the morning. It was a nice safety feature to have, and at 2 in the morning, who was I going to call?
Not that many years ago, people had the impulse control or perhaps the ability to plan ahead so that they were able to live their lives efficiently without making calls on cell phones while on the road. It would take effort to get back to those self-disciplined habits, but we might all be better for it.
Count me among the supporters of a cell phone ban on Chapel Hill roads.
— Nancy Oates