Responding to my piece on why cell phones should not be banned in cars, Alan Keathley emails:

I do not agree with you in that all distractions are the same. Talking on the phone (hands free or not) is a lot different than listening to the radio or talking with another passenger in the car. Listening to the radio is a very passive act and one can automatically tune out when driving situations require it. The same is for talking with a passenger. The passenger is involved with what is going on on the roadway and conversations will change or stop as a result of changing situations. Talking on the phone is more active and the person or persons on the other end do not have that same vantage point.

I didn’t say that radio is as distracting as using a cell phone. I said that when radios were first introduced in cars, they were a distracting technology that people had to get used to, just as we’re still in the early years of learning to drive and communicate simultaneously. And while Alan is right that the person at the other end of the call doesn’t have the same vantage point that a passenger would, I can always stop the conversation — or drop the phone — if an emergency situation arises on the road.

However, Alan and I agree on his next point:

You can rest assured that congress will not pass any such legislation as many of them, if not all, engage in cell phone use while driving. They could always exclude themselves from such legislation and other special interest groups that buy them tickets to next year’s Super Bowl game. Not like that’s never happened.

Bob Robinson writes:

The NTSB, among others, seems to be ignorant of the fact that most, if not all, states have laws on their books concerning “failure to pay due care and attention”. I know Maryland has one, as my older sister got cited for it in 1975! That particular case was bogus, as it was th other driver who should have been charged. But I digress. The plain and simple fact is that any state that passes a law against all cell phone use will be looking to accomplish only one thing – raise revenue.

Of course, if you’re going to implement such a ban wouldn’t it only be fair if the police charged with enforcing it were required to abide by it first? Yes, I am aware of the irony of expecting law enforcement personnel to obey the very laws they are charged with upholding.

Interestingly, all of the venues that do have cell phone bans in place — including the one for commercial truckers that goes into effect next month — have carved out an exception for CB radios. I suppose the thinking is that we’ve had that technology around long enough that drivers can use them safely. Maybe what we need now is an updated version of CW McCall’s novelty hit “Convoy” with a bunch of suburban commuters on their cell phones in rush hour.