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Cell Phones and Seat Belts

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Who says jogging is a safe exercise? For those of us who like to run outside it's anything but. I can't count how many times I've been chased by dogs, slipped on black ice, tripped over a branch (and one time on a snake), or have had close calls with cars. Tonight's episode involved an SUV driven by a woman chatting away on her cell phone. As I approached a bank's driveway, I noticed the SUV approach, trying to make a right turn. She stopped at the edge of the driveway, looked right and looked left. It was dark, but the street was well lit and I thought for sure she'd seen me in my white T-shirt approaching. I generally avoid cars that are about to make turns by going behind them, but I was sure she'd seen me; more like she saw through me. As I confidently stepped in front of the SUV, she gunned the car and at the last moment made a frantic stop. She'd finally seen me, but only after I had collided with her giant car. Thankfully it wasn't a big impact, but it must've rattled her. That's when I noticed her right hand holding the cell phone up to her ear. I'm not much into confrontation, specially when I have to conserve my energy for jogging. I decided to turn back and circle the car and we both went about our ways. I lived to collide with another car on another day.

There are good laws and then there the bad ones. We've had a no-cell-phone-while-driving law in Connecticut for a few months now. It's a good law, but from what I have observed little is being done to enforce it. It's a good law because it protects people from those who get too distracted to notice their surroundings while chattering on their cell phones or fumbling for a number to dial. Instead the state has decided to put more effort into enforcing the seat belt law, something that I consider a bad law, actually a stupid law. Who is being protected by the seat belt law other than the driver or the passenger sitting up front?

I am not anti seat belt, but people should have the freedom to decide whether or not to buckle up. I don't wear a seat belt most of the time. You are free to label me foolish, but I am not jeopardizing anyone else's safety. You could argue that if I were to have an accident, there is a cost to society in terms of higher insurance premiums, higher hospital bills, or wasted police time. Fair enough, but that argument could be applied to any activity. We'd have to ban skiing because a percentage of people are injured every year and require assistance. Why not ban sky diving, riding motorcycles, swimming, or even marathons while we're at it? That could save on money and resources that go into rescuing and treating those who are injured while participating in a variety of activities. Let's also ban butter, ice cream, and burgers too. Having sex would also make a good candidate, specially for those with advance age. Clearly there has to be a rational line where individual freedom should trump possible cost to all.

Banning cell phone usage, while driving, is rational. Instead, the public is subjected to countless ads designed to scare them into wearing their seat belts or face fines; the so-called "Click it, or ticket" campaign. Thankfully I don't even own a cell phone, so no problem obeying the cell phone usage ban. But if I were inclined to break a law, I'd be wise to get a cell phone, wear my seat belt and yak away while driving. I'd be safe the whole time while putting others at risk, and little chance I'd get a ticket for it.

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