A law to ban cell-phone use in roadway work zones begs the question: Shouldn’t cell-phone use be banned on every street and roadway in the state?
As they say, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
Yes, it’s good legislators are considering how to make work zones safer. There’s no excuse for the shocking number of accidents, injuries and fatalities that have occurred at or along roadway work sites in just the past 10 years – 41 deaths and more than 4,000 injuries. Work-crew members at those sites have often remarked about how many motorists breeze blithely through those sites, yakking away on cell phones or indulging in other distractive behaviors, often while exceeding the posted speed limits.
That observation was made by Deb Carlson during a State House committee hearing at the St. Paul Capitol earlier this month. Carlson is the widow of Craig Carlson, who was killed, along with Ron Rajkowski, at a worksite by Burnsville in 2011. Ron’s widow, Jodi Rajkowski of St. Joseph, also spoke at the hearing. They urged legislators to ban cell phones and lower speed limits at work-zone sites.
As every motorist should know by now, speed kills; and speed plus distractive behavior is a double danger. That is especially true at work sites when so many things going on at once can be distractive and/or confusing, including detours, rerouting configurations, heavy equipment, noises and workers that can easily become vulnerable to distracted drivers. Speeding or using a cell phone greatly exacerbates the distractions beyond the vehicle’s windshield.
People forget a serious or fatal roadway accident usually happens – literally – in the blink of an eye, in a millisecond. Drivers who talk on cell phones, fiddle with radio knobs, eat dinner, put on makeup or do other forms of roadway multi-tasking are asking for trouble. These adults seem to act as if they are perpetual teenagers – immortal, invulnerable, indestructible.
They are, in fact, irresponsible operators of fast-moving vehicles; they are threats to public safety. It’s really discouraging drivers have to be reminded driving demands one’s full attention at all times on any street or roadway. We have to wonder if any law at all is going to persuade distracted drivers to start keeping their eyes and their minds on their driving. However, it’s certainly worth a try. It took a long time, but seat-belt laws have gradually convinced an overwhelming majority of drivers and passengers to buckle up. Laws against drunken driving have convinced an increasing number of drivers not to drive while intoxicated. Perhaps if enough drivers are caught – and prosecuted – for driving while doing distractive activities, it might convince more and more drivers to realize, at long last, it’s a very dangerous thing to be doing and they should stop it before they injure or kill themselves or somebody else.
Two years ago, the legislature passed a law against texting while driving. However, it’s difficult for law enforcement to determine visually if someone talking or texting while driving. The real solution is to ban cell-phone or iPad use, period, while driving.
The legislature, for now at least, should pass the work-zone law. Later, if that law proves effective, it should be extended to all streets and roads. In short, no cell-phone use while driving, period.
We can only hope such a law will make the difference.