On Thursday, the Austin City Council unanimously passed an ordinance that banned any use of hand-held electronics — including cell phones, music players and navigational devices — behind the wheel of a car. Texting while driving had already been banned, but this ordinance takes it a couple more steps, being called a "common next step after texting ban" by one local political activist.
The Council did, however, carve out an exception for if the car has come to a complete stop. Additionally, a hands-free device exception was also implemented. But otherwise, all use of the aforementioned electronics is prohibited. Dialing a phone call is now illegal. If you still possess a car phone, for whatever reason, all use of it will be disallowed as well.
This ordinance is just another example of good-hearted progressive causes going too far, for no other reason than because "they can." Banning texting while driving is a good and noble pursuit, one that Austin was right to accomplish a few years ago and other entities, such as the state of Texas and my hometown of Houston, should strive toward sooner rather than later. But the complete prohibition of cell phone use while driving is not only illogical, it's just plain silly.
Study after study has shown that looking away from the road for the perilous few seconds it takes to send or receive a text message are particularly dangerous, perhaps just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. The results, though, are far more inconclusive for clicking the "next song" button on your iPod. The same thing goes with holding a phone up to your ear.
There are plenty of distractions that we put up with in the car for convenience or comfort. Radios take our eyes, minds and hands off the steering wheel. Eating and drinking soda can sometimes sidetrack us. Only a Big Government, nanny-state micromanager would ever think all these activities should be banned in order to make us nominally safer.
Well, micromanagers and the Austin City Council, evidently.