Thursday, August 16, 2007

On Banning Cellphones While Driving

At present, mobile phones have become an integral and necessary part of American life, which is almost entirely different more than a decade ago, when mobile phones were still considered a luxury by many Americans. Perhaps one of the best evidence of its necessity for every American has been the experience of September the 11th, when hundreds of mobile phone calls were made, sending messages of love, hope, despair, grief and sadness. On the other hand, the mobile phone industry has already overwhelmingly penetrated the mass market, notwithstanding the seemingly endless production of high-end, high-tech models for the upscale markets. Even in developing countries such as the Philippines, mobiles phones have become an utter necessity, as even landless peasants and urban slum dwellers brandish mid-end mobile phones from Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Motorola, to the extent that sometimes, food on the table is sacrificed to simply ensure that their mobile phones are fully operational. On the other hand, mobile phones are now being used as the catch-all mobile equipment for the cosmopolitan individual, with endless features being introduced in a single phone, such as GPS systems, roadmaps, hi-speed internet access, mp3 players, high-pixel cameras, among many other things which have transformed the mobile phone from a mere communications equipment to the ultimate gadget of the contemporary times. The sleek and chic phones are used everywhere, for as long as the batteries work and a network signal is present, even while driving cars in heavy traffic and on the freeway. As a result, this almost non-stop of the mobile phones has posed new physical and cultural problems which must be re-examined and prevented. This paper will examine these problems in the context of mobile phone use while driving a vehicle and it shall argue for the prohibition of its use in the context given above.

There is no better argument for the prohibition of the use of mobile phones while driving a vehicle than the limitless possibility of vehicular accidents while operating a mobile phone, especially on freeways. This possibility of accidents does not involve only the conventional use of mobile phones during driving, such as voice calling and text messaging, but includes all the other added functions of the contemporary mobile phone, including playing its built-in games, taking pictures, choosing mp3 playlists, among others. In the Republic of the Philippines, the world-renowned text messaging capital of the world, an ordinance is enforced banning the use of mobile phones while driving a vehicle, with heavy fines imposed if found guilty by law enforcement agents, notwithstanding the possibility of full revocation of driving privileges for indefinite periods. According to the Manila Times, a widely respected broadsheet of national circulation, the Metro Manila-wide ordinance was enacted by the different cities and municipalities encompassing the Philippine’s National Capital Region mainly for the public good and order, as thousands of vehicular accidents in the Philippines have identified cell phone usage while driving vehicles as the proximate cause of these accidents (Reyes, 2006). These accidents do not include car-to-car collisions alone, but includes pedestrian deaths and damages to property, particularly government property, that the economic costs of these accidents are to the utter disadvantage of the Filipino public. More so, it is a fundamental idea in driving school that even little distractions to the full concentration of driving a vehicle can lead to unwanted results, as the hand-eye coordination between the wheel and the road is greatly diminished, even if the driver simply pushes a few buttons to access his mp3 playlists. Driving involves split-second decisions which, if interfered with, may lead to violent car crashes and even deaths. These alarming situations have even stirred into action major mobile phone companies such as Nokia, the mobile phone of choice by many Filipinos, to launch information and advocacy campaigns discouraging the use of mobile phones while driving, which was creatively called Phonethics. According to the SME Community Philippines magazine (2006), Nokia Philippines advocated an educational platform to remind the public about the responsible use of cellphones in which the campaign was broadcast in mainstream tri-media and supplemented by road signs along major thoroughfares of key cities nationwide, especially in the light of increasing road accidents, petty crimes and social faux pas attributed to the relentless use of these mobile devices.

Another decisive argument against the use of cellphones while driving is the spawning of culture of over-reliance to mobile gadgets for a wide array of human activity, to the extent that it breeds delinquency and irresponsibility in the guise of greater efficiency of work and communications. While it is true that the advent of mobile phone communications has revolutionized the way people connect with each other, sometimes it is being used as an excuse of failure to perform duties and responsibilities well. A sad yet relevant example is the shocking Virginia Tech massacre that has moved the world into sorrow. While the killings were occurring, the students had absolute access to electronic gadgets such as laptops and mobile phones to communicate to state security forces and media the grim events that were presently happening in their school. It is true that their calls were very important for the quick response of policemen, but such an over-reliance to the speed at which messages can be sent and processed to government agencies, tacitly overlooked the more important necessity of the school having a comprehensive emergency security plan to prevent atrocities of this magnitude from ever occurring.

On a lighter note, it also breeds delinquency and irresponsibility because mobile phone calls while driving are usually done to reassure colleagues, friends, and family members as to their exact location as of the moment, especially when there are scheduled meetings and appointments. If people were more professional and cordial in keeping commitments and promises, such reassurance might not even be needed anymore, thus, saving the person from the economic costs of a voice call, and the physical risks of accidents.

Most importantly, mobile phone use while driving, in whatever form, prospectively endangers the right to life and property, not only of the driver using the mobile phone but also those who may be inconvenienced as a result of vehicular accident that ensues. As such, the state, in the exercise of its police power, has every right to intervene and prohibit its use and enjoyment to promote the public good and welfare of the majority of its citizens and curtail the social evil of vehicular accidents from frequently occurring in the streets of its jurisdiction. The evils as a result of mobile phone use while driving does not only prejudice human life but the general enjoyment of property as well.

In all of these, there is a recognition that the use of mobile phones per se is greatly beneficial to the majority of the population, save for its use while driving a vehicle as the social evil that results from it is too grave to warrant a lenient position from the state and concerned citizens. The technology of mobile phones continues upgrading as every new model is released to the markets of the world, which must be fully supported and encouraged even by the government. However, for as long as no acceptable security features are presently equipped in current mobile phones to stem the loss of concentration while driving, there is no reason whatsoever to continue allowing its use while driving vehicles.

Works Cited:

1. Reyes, C. (2006, August 20). MMDA: Unwelcome do-gooder. The Sunday Times. Retrieved from 2006/aug/20/yehey/top_stories/20060820top4.html on 23 April 2007.

2. Adding Social Value to Your Brand. (2006). SME Community Philippines magazine, Vol. 1 No. 3.

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