Steve Prestegard has taken to his Journal Communications pro-biz blog to assert his right to do business over your right to be safe on the roads. Waupaca County, Wisconsin, has, like a few other communities around the state and several other states around the country, banned talking on cell phones while driving. This chaps Prestegard's britches, because of all the lost productivity:
I’ve written before about the negative impact this will have on business people, whether they work for a Waupaca County employer or are driving through Waupaca County. Business people use cellphones to contact, or be contacted by, customers or vendors, or for giving instructions to office staff or checking office voicemail. There are times in business where someone has to be contacted wherever he or she is immediately, without the delay involved in getting back to the office. For business people (unlike most people involved in government), time is money.Yes! Thank goodness those historical titans of industry--Rockefeller, Morgan, Ford, Edison--all had cell phones at those critical moments! And we all know that Fuller Brush lost beaucoup market share when those first cell phone bans went into effect in 1961!
If you have to be available immediately, then pull the hell over. You are obviously so important to the continued existence of the planet that we can't have you be four times more likely to die in a fiery crash while you take that critical call.
Yes, that's right. It's not "anecdotal," as Prestegard insists, and it's not just as dangerous as talking to your passengers or watching for speed traps. (Indeed, it's better to just drive the damn speed limit, too.) Talking while driving makes you four times more likely to have an accident than if you are not. Talking and driving impairs you as much or more than someone driving at the legal BAC limit of .08%.
Moreover, as David Strayer points out here, it's estimated that as many as 1 in 10 drivers are yakking away at any given moment. Imagine the outrage if you knew that at any given moment, ten percent of the drivers around you were legally drunk. That would be untenable. And yet, here's Prestegard insisting that his right to check his voicemail--he's a very important businessman!--is more important than your right not to get t-boned by his S-Class (or whatever it is he's driving). I'm sure that he would not make the same argument about driving at .08% BAC. Why make it about about something just as deadly?
(Full disclosure: I sometimes talk and drive, too. But I don't try to justify it with myths about my being so important that I can't be bothered to obey the law written for those lousy peons.)