Libertarians Say 'No' To Cell Phone Ban

July 7, 2008 - 8:03 PM

( - Several states are considering laws to ban, restrict or regulate the use of cell phones in automobiles, but the Libertarian Party is calling the ban "an overreaction to a non-existent crisis."

"We don't need new laws banning automotive cell phones any more than we need laws against eating in your car, changing the radio station, or yelling at kids in the back seat. Anyone who drives recklessly while engaging in any of those activities is already committing a crime," said Steve Dasbach, Libertarian Party national director.

Dasbach added, "So new laws targeting cell phones won't make us any safer. They will just make potential criminals out of millions of American commuters, students and soccer moms. Do we really want to make DWT, Driving While Talking, a criminal offense?"

"Reckless driving is reckless driving, whether the cause is a cell phone, a Big Mac and fries to go, or a dropped CD. Why target cell phone use over other forms of driver distraction, unless politicians are looking for an excuse to write another law?" said Dasbach.

Dasbach cited 1997 crash data by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration that he says estimated that cell phones were a factor in only 57 deaths.

"If that's correct, it means the odds of being killed because of an automotive cell phone is less than the risk of being killed by lightning, which claims 89 victims a year. That's why Americans should send state legislators a firm 'Cell No!' message to reject any new cell phone laws. Tell the government that your cell phone is your business and you'll use it responsibly when and where you like. Let freedom ring," Dasbach said.

NHTSA spokesman Tim Hurd responded saying, "What he's looking at is a listing of driver related factors that police officers write down when they come to a scene of a crash. Half the time they [police officers] don't have anything to note at all, but sometimes they can see various things that might have been involved in the crash."

The NHTSA research, according to Hurd found that "glare was a factor 206 times and weather was a factor 405 times and cellular phone use was a factor 57 times. But 20,840 times they [police officers] made no note at all. So he's wrong when he says NHTSA estimated, because we didn't estimate anything. What we did do was write down what police officers wrote down, and that's that cell phone use was a factor [in motor vehicle crashes] 57 times."

One of those states that were considering a cell phone-driving ban was Arkansas. But last Friday, Republican State Rep. Kim Hendren withdrew a bill he had introduced in the state legislature.

Hendren said during a committee hearing, he plans to refer his bill for what he called an "interim study" with the hope that the Arkansas Legislature will consider another version of it when it convenes in regular session again in 2003.

Hendren's bill would have made it unlawful to operate a motor vehicle while using a telephone. Exceptions would be if the vehicle were parked; if the telephone were being used to contact police, fire or rescue personnel to report an emergency; or for a certified law enforcement officer, firefighter, ambulance driver or emergency medical technician performing his official duties.

One of the reasons that Hendren cited for withdrawing his bill was heavy lobbying of his colleagues by cellular telephone companies.

Other states still considering legislation to ban cell phones while driving are: Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Washington.

Some localities are considering legislation as well, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures. However, no legislation has been introduced in Congress on the issue.