When driving in a car, the driver’s attention should be solely focused on the road. Talking on a cell phone or dialing a phone number diverts the driver’s attention away from operating his two-ton machine. The idea of trying to protect motorists and pedestrians from careless driving due to cell phone use is a good one that could save many lives if it is put in to practice correctly.
Brookline is the first town or city in Massachusetts to enact a law banning speaking on cell phones while driving. Brookline lawmakers believe that driving and talking is a hazard to pedestrians and the other motorists with whom cell phone-happy motorists share the road. Hands-free phones are exempt from this ban.
However, it is unclear whether or not the state law will allow the ordinance. This is because it appears to violate a 1977 law that allows use of cell phones as long as one of the driver’s hands is on the wheel at all times. At that time cell phones were not as prevalent in our society as they are now and will become in the next few years.
Town ordinances must not contradict state law, despite the well-meaning intentions of the local lawmakers. A law that will save lives such as this one should be passed on a statewide level. A law that only applies to one community can not be well enforced or respected, because so many commuters pass through the area on their way to other neighborhoods, and if they cross Brookline town lines they may not realize that chatting and driving is illegal.
In order to have a law like this respected and enforced, it must be adopted by the state and not just made one town. This law could potentially save many lives each year if the state adopts it and enforces it as it does speed limit or seat belt laws, in the interest of safety.