hang up already

Maureen Dowd, a columnist who is always fun to read, has a good column today on the evils of driving while talking on a cell phone. I understand that there are exceptions and emergencies, but as someone who drives a two seater hatchback, I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that insofar as participating in activities which endanger others is not showing love to neighbor, it is a sin to drive while texting or dialing a cell phone (especially if you’re driving an SUV).  Dowd argues that it is just as dangerous to use a hands-free phone.  She may be right, but at the very least I believe that the driver with one hand on his ear and the other on the wheel is not considering me or my safety.  His hitting me is not an “accident,” and he has sinned against me even if he swerves in time.

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  1. Mythbusters has a great episode where they do a road test while under the influence and then do it while on the cell phone. The difference is pretty negligible. You should check it out sometime.

  2. interesting post. i’m thinking i can justify a new Subaru Impreza because my clunker doesn’t have the responsiveness and braking ability necessary to avoid potential accidents. i’m only half-joking. at what point does focusing on something other than driving become acceptable? while eating and drinking? what if it’s coffee to prevent falling asleep on an early commute? flipping through different Christian radio stations?

  3. I’m tempted to believe you are serious since there are no brackets anywhere.

  4. Jonathan Shelley July 22, 2009 — 2:49 pm

    Mike:

    [Did you take into account that the person on the cell phone while driving might just be more important than you? After all, there are some people who are so gosh-darn important that the world might end if they turned off their Blackberry for even a few seconds. Imagine the chaos if they weren’t able to Twitter “I’m driving and there sure are a lot of crazy drivers out here!” I think you need to accept the fact that your safety is simply not as important as that phone call, text message, email, download, game, movie, or whatever else it is that people are doing with their phones these days.]

    Thanks for the link to the column – very interesting information.

    {Posted from my Blackberry while driving.}

  5. Mike,

    As a recovering politician, I am glad you did not start your blog by stating that there ought to be a law. Instead you focused on the morality of the issue. While serving in Lansing I remember one do-gooder attempting a floor amendment to a piece of legislation, I think dealing with mandatory enforcement of seat belts, (another manifestation of the nanny state) that would ban the use of cell phones while driving. In speaking against the amendment I compared the practice with the greater risk of legislators speaking on the phone with staff, lobbyists, or constituents while voting on important legislation. That practice continues unabated.
    I remember back in ’02 while cruising down a freeway outside Joberg in a packed combi how another driver nearly drove us off the road. He was not talking on his cell, he was trying to get the attention of our driver and host because he was on his cell, speaking to someone back home in the USA. Cell phone use while driving is prohibited in SA, I suppose in an effort to keep drivers alert to potential of car-jackers. The nanny state is a funny thing.

  6. Carter: I think I saw something on Nightline recently which said that texting slows drivers’ response time more than alcohol.

    Mark: flipping through Christian radio stations introduces another element of sin. Let’s try to limit our discussion to one sin at a time! Seriously, I used to drive down the road with my memory verse flashcards in one hand, and now that I think about it, that wasn’t a good idea either. I guess anything can be wrong in the right context.

    Jeff: I may be using invisible brackets, which show up only when wet. So throw a cup of water on your screen and you’ll know whether I am serious!

    Jonathan: You’re right, it really does come down to selfishness. My time is more important than your life!

    Jack: are you saying that you can’t legislate morality? Are you still a Republican?!

  7. So nobody has the guts to defend talking on the phone and driving? I’ll admit I do it all the time – no accidents or even close calls. Sorry, but I don’t have the experience to compare it to drunk driving, but I’m guessing they can’t possibly compare. I did almost get side-swiped once by a teenage girl who had BOTH hands on her phone texting and no eyes on the road, incidentally I’m against texting and driving. You can gather that this all hinges on personal experience for me🙂 Hey, I’m just being honest.

    How would a hands free device be any different than talking to someone else in the car?

    When I was a kid and my sister and I would start fighting in the back seat, my dad would turn halfway around to smack us while still driving… wish that had been illegal.

  8. Steve:

    Good points, but how do you know that you had no close calls? Maybe you didn’t see them because you were talking on the phone!

    You do bring up a good point about the distraction of children. I’m going to say it’s a sin to drive with them in the car and leave them at home from now on.

    How’s this for a picture of sin? A harried mother in a minivan with lite rock blasting and three kids screaming, one half out of her car seat, barrelling down the road while texting with both hands all the while she is speaking into her hands-free phone. If this is obviously wrong, the question we’re asking is how much less distraction than this is acceptable.

  9. I did Hebrew and Greek flash cards on the way back and forth from Lansing. My wife followed me once on the freeway when I was working on Hebrew, and I asked her if she could tell. Nope.

    I have always credited my long drive back and forth with my good grades in the languages (seriously). By the time I got back from the mornings class, I already knew the vocabulary for the day.

  10. Mike,

    As for legislating morality, I am suggesting that every evil or immoral choice of fallen man cannot justify a legislative remedy. I cannot remember the source, (possibly Benjamin Rush) but someone once said: “If you are not governed by the ten commandments, you will be governed by the ten thousand commandments.” That about sums up the situation we are in today. Legislators tend to find their ultimate satisfaction in adoping laws for every perceived flaw in society. Granted there is an obligation to seek the welfare and safety of society in general, but it is always best to have an inherant resistance to legislative remedies. As for party affiliation, there is a big difference between seeking the nomination of a specific party in order to gain election to office and the blanket identification with everything a party is perceived to embrace. I trust those evangelicals on the left side of the political spectrum would say the same about their association with the party of Barack.

  11. Mike:

    Just to contradict what I just wrote ( how’s that for a recovering politician talking out both sides of their mouth), I think there should be a tax applied to every time someone says: “There ought to be a law.” That way we will not run as much risk of running afoul of the 1st amendment guarantee of “free” speech. After all, when is anything really free? We’ll just tax speech which has the potential to restrict our other freedoms. Maybe I should put this entire thread in brackets. Nevertheless, I need to be careful not to regress in my “recovery”. Too much political discussion may force me to go back through another step in the process of recovery.

  12. Jonathan Shelley July 23, 2009 — 1:05 pm

    Jack:

    One thing to consider – if we didn’t try to have a law for every little thing, then we probably wouldn’t need full time legislators, or as many judges to interpret all the laws, or so many lawyers to argue in front of those judges and to act as “advisors” to the legislators who are writing those laws (and so on and so forth). That would put some people out of work, or at least reduce their income to such a level that they would need to find additional work, putting an even greater burden on our already strained economy. Hence, over-legislating is good for the economy. What this country needs right now is more politicians and lawyers!

  13. Jonathan:

    I think you forgot to use brackets. Nevertheless, you raise an interesting point. I actually had a discussion once with a local postmaster (read government union member) who argued that relatively high paying government jobs were good for the economy since those workers then paid more in taxes than they would working at the going market rate. I tried, with little success, to ask him to take that argument to it’s logical conclusion. If it were true, then the way out of any economic downturn is simply to give everyone a good paying job within government. The argument was so contrary to his union worldview that he simply could not process the logic, or lack thereof. Of greater consequences for our society than his tunnel vision is the sad fact that this is exactly what the current leadership in Washington is attempting to do. (now I need to repeat another step in my recovery process.)

  14. Jonathan Shelley July 23, 2009 — 6:53 pm

    Jack:

    Now you’re getting it – government beauracracy is the way to go. We’d all have job security, great pay, and it makes the whole health care legislation debate moot. And the best way to expand the beauracracy is to pass more laws so we need more agencies to enforce them. For example, putting a tax on saying “there ought to be a law.” We’d need free-range IRS agents to enforce that, not to mention the endless wrangling over what constitutes a “there ought to be a law” equivalency. Oh, I’m going to dream of beautiful reams of red tape tonight!

    Plus, if we all work for the government, our taxes would be paying our own salaries, which makes us all self-employed, really, so every American can achieve the dream of owning their own business. Man, this idea just gets better and better. Thanks for the ideas. Now I’m off to start a grass roots movement!

  15. Jonathan:

    Sadly there are all together too many individuals in our society who would not recognize your sarcasm. Now we need to ask them just how is that hope and change workin for ya?

    One of the great ironies for those of us who have been participants in the political arena is the realization that while government is ordained by God with the specific intent to restrain fallen mankind, the process of that governing must be conducted by those very fallen individuals. That is why we have checks and balances, because our “founding fathers” possessed a worldview that understood our fallenness. It’s also why we have such a hard time, in our democratic republics, grasping the kingdom terminology of Scripture. We cannot trust a king when we see so much that is lacking in our own elected officials. Yet another irony of our times is how we then seem to place so much confidence in the collective wisdom of the voters when they anoint a new regime. Once again, how is that hope and change workin for ya?

  16. Jonathan Shelley July 24, 2009 — 7:30 am

    Jack:

    I believe it was Thomas Jefferson who said that the key to democracy is an informed citizenry. Americans have a lot of information, but far too few of us are actually informed. We base our electoral decisions on soundbites and celebrity endorsements.

    You spoke of the biblical mandates for government and kingdom, and I think we have missed the mark even more than you have indicated. I think one of the major contributors to our current state is the general lack of personal responsibility of most Americans. We turn to our government to make all the decisions and run our lives (OK, that’s an overstatement, but it is the direction we are heading). We’ve gotten to the point where we need to have common sense codified in laws and court rulings. As you previously stated, we either live by the 10 commandments or by the 10,000, and we’ve already banned the 10 commandments.

    Thanks for indulging my nonsensery. Peace, brother.

  17. I interrupt the learned conversation between Jack, a recovering politician, and Jonathan, who is just recovering, to ask John Lemke whether his wife was talking on her cell phone while she was following him from Lansing, and if so, isn’t that the reason she did not notice that his driving was any different?

  18. Jonathan Shelley July 24, 2009 — 2:59 pm

    I just assumed John’s driving was erratic whether studying Hebrew or not!

  19. John did drive a pretty decent sized truck to seminary… maybe he just didn’t notice when he plowed over all the compact cars?

    Mike:

    As for your comment WAY back there, I guess I would have no proof that I didn’t have any close calls. Unrelated to this thread, though, my wife did challenge me to go a month without talking on my phone while driving [wow, this makes it sound like I do that ALL the time] {Hurray! My first bracketed comment on this blog!}. I decided to take her up on the challenge. If nothing else, I’m looking forward to having some time when I don’t have to be connected to the digital world.

    Jack and Jonathan:

    Ever heard of instant messaging? 🙂

    Jack:

    In response to this line, “That way we will not run as much risk of running afoul of the 1st amendment guarantee of “free” speech. After all, when is anything really free?” I offer a quote. Please pardon the minor language:

    “There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences.”
    -P.J. O’Rourke

  20. Jonathan Shelley July 25, 2009 — 10:01 am

    I’ve decided this whole cell phone debate is moot. I’m going to take advantage of the cash for clunkers program and get me a new Mercedes-Benz E-class – the one that monitors and corrects for erratic driving. I don’t have to worry about staying in my lane or keeping a safe following distance anymore – my car can do it for me!

  21. Dr. Wittmer,

    Thank you for this brief post. Using your typically humorous style, you actually pinned me to the wall, in love of course. I was instantly convicted that I do this very thing, all the time! Thank you for being used of God to convict this child of his to hang up while I’m driving. I truly appreciate your words!

    Soli Deo Gloria,

    Tom

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