Cell phones and young drivers

State Representative Greg Macpherson (D-Lake Oswego) has an idea for reducing auto accidents by young drivers. In his latest "Mac Report", he proposes banning the use of cell phones by any driver under the age of 21.

It’s well known that the young have more accidents than more experienced drivers. According to the National Safety Council, only 13 percent of drivers are under age 25, but those young drivers have 29 percent of all accidents. ...

Oregon already has a system of provisional licensing for young drivers. Under a provisional license, for example, young drivers cannot carry young passengers who are not family members. That restriction recognizes the distraction created by conversations with friends. ...

For the safety of all who use the public roadways, Oregon needs to prohibit the use of cell phones by young drivers until they have greater experience. Age 21, the same point at which we permit young adults to consume alcohol, would provide a boundary with some logic.

Some say the use of cell phones by all drivers should be restricted. Last week California enacted a requirement that drivers talking on cell phones must use a “hands-free” technology so the phone need not be held to the ear.

Such a restriction must balance the improvement in public safety against loss in efficiency for those who depend on a cell phone in their work. But that trade- off does not exist for young drivers, whose cell phone use is almost entirely social.

Hat tip to Jack Bogdanski, who has the full text.

Discuss.

Comments

  • (Show?)

    I'm torn on this one. Obviously cellphone distracted drivers are a significant menace on the road. We should never forget that we lose more than a 9/11's worth of Americans every single MONTH from preventable automobile accidents, and any reasonable restriction to change that should be at least examined.

    But I'm not so happy with the under-21 thing. We're to the point where you can serve, and die, in Iraq, before this country lets you have the full freedom to which they are entitled, do we really need to add one more thing?

    I might support this if the limit was set at the voting age: 18. But as for the 4 out of 5 Oregonians who skip college and go straight into the working world, where did we get the idea that their phone usage is any more "social" than your average 50 year old gossip?

  • adam (unverified)
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    I've always wondered if the correlation between young drivers and auto accidents is caused by their age or their relative inexperience on the road. Are 17 year olds with one year of driving experience more dangerous than 35 year olds learning to drive for the first time?

    I understand that young peers might be distracting, but are they significantly more distracting to a new than a young family?

  • askquestionst1st (unverified)
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    Steven Maurer - I generally respect the depth of your comments, so please don't take my comment as directed at your comment. Rather you voice a sentiment I suspect that many less thoughtful commentators than you also have, so I am simply using that as a springboard for my actual comment. Again, this is not intended as a direct response to your comment:

    I'm torn on this one. Obviously cellphone distracted drivers are a significant menace on the road.

    Personally, I think this kind of venal proposal is typical of the self-centered, nanny-state, and rather incompetent Democrats prevalent in the NW and our country like MacPherson. Cellphones are a dangerous distraction to any driver, no matter how skilled or how many years of experience. In fact, a truly skilled driver with sufficient years of experience knows that the skilled and responsible thing to do is to pull over to the side when one is talking on the phone. If a law is to be passed (and I believe it should having almost been rundown once on a sidewalk by an adult driver on a non-handsfree cellphone), no driver should use a cellphone when they are driving. Period. Again, if you want to talk on a cellphone, pull over and talk.

    Instead we see poor representatives of our party like MacPherson making politically expedient triangulations in the most childish ways:

    Such a restriction must balance the improvement in public safety against loss in efficiency for those who depend on a cell phone in their work.

    Obviously, safety is not a primary value for MacPherson but instead is a negotiable issue secondary to the political fallout. So he is being intellectually dishonest when he tries to present this as a safety issue to make political hay. Again if you depend on a cellphone, and if you actually are responsible and care about safety of yourself and others, you would pull over and make your calls.

    Macpherson is the same low-quality individual and Democrat who contributed this truly obnoxious piece to Blue Oregon:

    Crimes of a few hurt all elected officials http://www.blueoregon.com/2005/11/crimes_of_a_few.html

    In his addle-brained way, he saw some substantative connection between the multiple felonies of Tom DeLay, the self-admitted theft of campaign funds by Dan Doyle, and Kelly Wirth. From his self-chosen title, it is more than a little reasonable he is more worried about what this meant for his political and personal power goals. After all, I don't think anyone felt these incidents threw a negative light on genuinely principled Democrats in our state and federal government.

    The problem here is that this kind of weasly proposal by a representative like MacPherson is example #1 of the kind of poor leadership in our party in this state and at the federal level. It shows at the same time a lack of backbone, and selfish political angling for advantage that has seriously damaged the image of our party as actually standing for some principled set of governing values.

    Remember, now matter who you want to slice it, he chose to advance this political proposal in the face of all the issues our state faces. How truly pathetic.

  • Karl Smiley (unverified)
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    Although I don't feel quite as virulently about it as askquestionsfirst, I have to agree with most of his post. I believe that driving while talking on a cel is at least as dangerous as driving while over the limit (.08). Responsible people do neither. Picking on youth is weasly.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    If a law is to be passed (and I believe it should having almost been rundown once on a sidewalk by an adult driver on a non-handsfree cellphone), no driver should use a cellphone when they are driving. Period. Again, if you want to talk on a cellphone, pull over and talk.

    I agree. The difficulty is that people are so distracted while talking that they don't even notice when they narrowly avoid an accident and so in denial that when they have one they don't believe the cell phone was at fault.

    Witness the young lady whose SUV went off the Hawthorne Bridge a couple years ago and was miraculously fished from the Willamette. She was talking on a cell phone at the time but denied it had anything to do with going off the bridge.

    As for the 21 and under part, well yeh its pandering to the lobbyists and colleagues whose ears are firmly glued to a cell phone all the way from Portland to Salem and back. I think we lost this battle, there are too many people who think talking on the phone while driving is their god-given right.

    The truth is, hands-free or not, talking on a cell phone while driving is dangerous. As dangerous has driving at twice the legal alcohol limit according to several different studies.

  • Edward (unverified)
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    This idea is well intentioned, but fails Oregonians. I am seventeen, and drive. Cell phones are a distraction to everybody driving, no mattter their age. As I was driving today, I was almost sideswiped by some adult woman driving a Mercedes SUV while talking on the phone. I cannot count the number of near-accidents I have avoided that involved the other driver using a phone.

    If Rep. MacPherson wants to protect Oregonians, ban cell phone use for ALL drivers. If they need to talk, they can pull over to the shoulder, or nearest stopping area such as a gas station or 7/11.

  • rafael (unverified)
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    yea as a high school student I agree all the way with what edward just said. If you plan on banning cell phone use while driving then ban it for all drivers not just drivers under 21.

  • David (unverified)
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    I'm with the commenter above, I would propose a ban on all cell phone use while driving (except when using hands free devices) for all drivers. I know hands free devices may not be much safer but I don't think you can go all the way just yet.

  • Tory Macpherson (unverified)
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    For what it's worth, I'd like to contribute some background to this discussion.

    First, I am Greg's Macpherson's wife. I worked with him to develop the legislative proposal, and can assure you that he supports a ban on hand-held cell phones by all drivers, regardless of age. But we thought a blanket ban on hand-held cell phones by all drivers was likely to fail, for the reasons expressed by some of the posters above. So we drafted two separate proposals, hoping that one at least would pass. The bill directed at young drivers is the one we thought more likely to pass, and would at least protect cyclists and pedestrians from the least experienced class of drivers.

    Second, the anti-cell phone were motivated by personal, and painful experience. Last May, an 18-year-old driver, while chatting on a cell phone, made an improper left turn and collided with my former husband, who was on a bicycle. Witnesses say the driver did not even hit the brakes before he slammed into my ex-husband.

    My ex-husband took the full impact in his head and face. He was taken to Rogue Valley Medical Center with life-threatening injuries. Soon afterward, I drove our daughter down to Medford to stand by her father's hospital bed at the beginning of what turned out to be a month-long coma. I cannot tell you what that was like, or how it felt to spend a month not knowing if he would survive, or what condition he would be in if he did.

    He has since come out of the coma and is now living in a foster care home. His feeding tube was removed last week and he can walk, very slowly, with a cane. He is visually impaired and will likely suffer some degree of physical pain for the rest of his life. He has other cognitive impairments, and only time (and hard work) will tell how much function he will ultimately recover. But he will never be the same person he was before the collision.

    This man is a loving husband to his wife, a dedicated father and stepfather to my children, and to me, a friend. Saddest of all, he is a man who simply loved physical activity. One second before the impact, he was a life-long, talented athlete. He was slowing down a bit as he approached 60, but for him, "slowing down" meant doing triathlons on the weekends instead of playing rugby. That part of his life has been taken from him forever. In the blink of an eye, his physical and financial future have been ruined.

    And the kid on the cell phone? He got a $700 traffic ticket.

    The district attorney specifically found that my ex-husband was in no way at fault for the collision. But he decided not to charge the driver with a crime, because his behavior did not sufficiently deviate from community standards to be considered "reckless." With the rising incidence of motor vehicle collisions with pedestrians and cyclists, Greg and I decided those community standards needed an upgrade.

    For the safety of all of us who use the public roadways, I hope both of Greg's bills pass. I hope you all support those bills. I don't ever want to stand at another hospital bedside because somebody thought it was more important to chat on a cell phone than to watch the road. And I don't want any of you standing there either.

    Tory Macpherson

  • (Show?)

    Thank you, Tory, for the full backstory. It must be very painful to see this happen to someone who is loved by your family.

  • (Show?)

    While I like this idea - and would support a complete ban - if we're going to single out young people, I'd argue for marking it at age 18.

    As Steven Maurer points out, there are plenty of working 18, 19, and 20 year olds -- particularly apprentices in the trades, where you spend a lot of time driving to jobsites (and thus phone calls might be reasonable.)

  • Reality Check (unverified)
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    Political expediency? I rather think that the thing Macpherson balances safety against is that thing ... what's it called ... reality? Why do we so malign negotiation in such a blind fashion?

    I love it, askquestions1st. Can always count on you for wrangled rhetoric ratcheted to wretched proportions.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    But he decided not to charge the driver with a crime, because his behavior did not sufficiently deviate from community standards to be considered "reckless."

    Which was correct - talking on a cell phone is not considered reckless, which is the problem. It should be clear it is reckless for anyone to drive and talk on the phone. I don't buy the argument that 18 year olds are any more distracted by talking an a cell phone than their parents, they may even be less distracted. And the problem is not that the driver is holding a phone.

    The problem is that carrying on a conversation over the phone while driving is a dangerous distraction for anyone by any method. We don't need laws that tells adult its all right for them to do it. Which is really what a law that only applies to those under 21 does.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    If you don't think you can attack the problem head on, there are some alternatives.

    1) Make anyone using a cell phone absolutely libel for all accidents and let the insurance companies sort it out by charging extra for coverage that applies when operating a cell phone.

    2) Require anyone who operates a cell phone in an automobile to go through a cell phone safety training course and pass a test on safe operation. Essentially a "cell phone" endorsement on drivers licenses.

    3) Make operating a cellphone when turning or changing lanes illegal. That seems to be the place where distractions have the greatest impact.

    Not that any of those are going anywhere in the legislature either.

  • Dickey45 (unverified)
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    I'm all for full ban on cells while driving. But I'm curious as to the difference between talking on a cell phone and talking to a passenger, say, right next to you. Is there any research on it?

    BTW, whenever we see bad driving, the FIRST thing we do is look for the cell phone. Almost always is there a cell phone involved. The amount of poor driving has certainly gone up.

    As a side-note, I had a cell for about 10 years. I recently gave it up. The peace and quiet since has been heavenly. Not only do I NOT regret getting rid of the cell phone, I occassionally beat myself up for not doing it sooner and I certainly appreciate the $35 a month in savings. Now I just use my $9 a month internet phone and get free long distance.

  • askquestions1st (unverified)
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    Tory -

    My sympathies to your family and your ex-husband.

    As I alluded to in my original thread, I was in a situation where my spouse and I were standing on a city sidewalk and a driver who appeared to be well over 40 talking on a cellphone drove up on the sidewalk, knocked both of us backwards with his minivan. Fortunately, because we were on foot and he was going slowly, neither of us was seriously hurt and he actually didn't run over us. I have a vivid memory of staring terrified face-to-face at this driver through the windshield of his relatively short-nosed minivan, as I was being pushed backwards by his vehicle. Which is why I support a ban on anyone talking on cellphones while someone is driving. Nonetheless, I haven't called up my representatives demanding such a ban, much less a triangulated partial ban which would have had absolutely no relevance in the situation my wife and I experienced.

    Which brings me to my point. As important as your story is, and as tough as this might sound, we must be careful here because we do a grave disservice to our state and our fellow citizens if we do not put some distance between personal experience and legislative activity. (For instance, I could also offer you all kinds of triangulated ideas for health care in this state and this country when it comes to dealing with terminally ill patients, but in the end, I recognize those would not actually represent the kind of policies we really need.) In fairness to your audience, you could have put in fewer details as I originally did, but clearly you felt you wanted to make an appeal to emotion. That's your right, and it has a place as the source for many a good piece of legislation, but that alone does not serve as the basis for good leadership.

    What's more, in my case, you succeeded more with your appeal than you might have wanted to: First, you have strengthened my conviction that we should follow legislative leaders in other states who must, by your own rationalization for offering two bills, arguably must have more leadership ability and/or care more about exercising leadership to protect their constituents, make it illegal for anyone to talk on a cellphone while driving. There is a certain amount of transparency in making such an appeal to emotion and then offering a "deal". And, unfortunately, Rep. MacPherson's previously cited history on this blog does little to dispel that notion of less than principled leadership.

    So I ask you and Rep. MacPherson now to set aside emotion as understandably and legitimately difficult as that is, and to forego ego and personal political considerations, and to focus your attention and leadership energy in a demonstration of the leadership qualities we need to exhibit as Democrats. Withdraw the age-specific proposal from consideration. Put your full weight behind a ban on talking on cellphones while driving. As part of that you can find plenty of scientific support to make the case by contacting your legislative counterparts in states that have done this. I call on other Democrats here to support MacPherson in that single, more focused, and principled effort should he decide to take that high road. The people of our start, and as result our party for the leadership we would have demonstrated, will be the better for it.

  • askquestions1st (unverified)
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    Reality Check -

    Try offering something by way of expository comment rather than juvenile little shots, and somebody might believe you have a clue what reality is.

  • askquestions1st (unverified)
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    Lest I leave a false impression with the previous

    For instance, I could also offer you all kinds of triangulated ideas for health care in this state and this country when it comes to dealing with terminally ill patients,

    I should hasten to add I am not terminally ill, the context is terminally ill family members.

  • (Show?)

    Dickey45: But I'm curious as to the difference between talking on a cell phone and talking to a passenger, say, right next to you. Is there any research on it?

    Yes there is. At least one study has evidence indicating that even hand-free "virtual" conversation is considerably more distracting than talking with a passenger. However, it also shows that experience in concentration mitigated this to a great degree (the study simulated this by comparing airline pilots vs non-pilots).

    So, ignoring issues having to do with political realism (which I normally am very sensitive to), it seems the actual best policy balance would be to outlaw handheld cellphones, and make operating a hands-free cellphone while driving an additional certificate on your drivers license (complete with required training course).

    Good luck with getting that anywhere, though.

  • Dan (unverified)
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    Actually, I think Gov.K will provide an answer to this concern very soon.

    He will suggest we simply all licensed drivers between the ages of 18-21 if they own a cell phone.

    The money collected could be give to OHSU just like the Tobacco settlement money (for tobacco "victims") ($200 million per Will Week) was.

    If you don't have an answer to the question, just tax it.

  • Harry (unverified)
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    You say that hands free vitual talking is more distracting than talking to an in-car passenger...how much so? Maybe it is only a bit more distracting, therefore we should ban both talking on a hands free phone and engaging in discussions with car passengers.

    And if driving while talking on a hand held phone is distracting, well then, imagine how distracting it must be to talk with your mouth full of a Big Mac (not to mention how very rude!). So obviously, we should outlaw any of that Big Mac driving (unless, of course, you are alone).

    And since chewing a Big Mac is almost the same as chewing gum, especially those gums that have FlavorBurst gel in them that explode into a joyful and quite collosal flavor experience in your mouth, well then, we had better nix that while driving and talking as well.

    And if you are one of those who feels the need to sing along with the radio when you are driving, especially those rap songs where you also have to bob and weave your head and hands, well you should not be able to do dat no mo.

    So, I am all for this legislation, as long as somebody amends it with the above amendments.

  • (Show?)

    <h>Harry:</h> And if you are one of those who feels the need to sing along with the radio when you are driving, especially those rap songs where you also have to bob and weave your head and hands, well you should not be able to do dat no mo.

    First, I don't say it. The conclusions of the study I linked to said it. For those to lazy to click on a link, the key findings were:

    • When no conversation was going on, the driving performance of pilots and non-pilots was equivalent.
    • When the driver was talking with a passenger, the performance of the pilots was superior to that of the non-pilots.
    • When the driver was talking on a cell phone, the performance of the pilots deteriorated slightly, but the performance of the non-pilots dropped sharply.

    Again, there seems to be a difference in level of concentration between passively listening (chewing gum, etc), and active conversation with someone you can't see.

    So for this, and other more obvious reasons, I suggest Harry that you Shut The F**k Up, you Republican crypto-racist asshole.

  • Dan (unverified)
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    Harry,

    Whether you are wrong or right on this issue, keep posting.

    Ignore Steve's juvenile last sentence that truly defines his lack decency.

    Hey Stevie Wonder, were you doing your Bill Clinton implosion impression on that last line? Bill's quite a bit better than you as he doesn't resort to using poor language in public discorse.

    It's a beautiful day Steve, so turn that frown up-side down.

  • (Show?)

    What is this? Revenge of the Republican trolls?

    I'm not particularly unhappy. Especially on this day, where you and Harry have both revealed your true crypto-racist colors: he for his direct statements, you for defending him.

    In fact, I'm downright pleased. The first step in squashing a loathsome disease-ridden maggot is exposing it to light.

  • Dan (unverified)
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    I'm not defending him at all, just his right to be wrong if he wants to. I too often forget that boo-hoo-hoo Liberals like you can only communicated by out-screaming the other guy.

    You're not pleased Steven. You're mad. Mad that the Liberals are going down to election defeat, yet again.

    You're mad that gas prices are falling. Mad that the Dow Jones is near an all-time high. Mad that consumer confidence, released this morning, showed a huge rise.

    You're mad because even in your state of left-wing ignorance, you remember that famous line, "its the economy, stupid."

    I, by the way, am the one smiling. :)

  • (Show?)

    Wow Dan, that's quite a mental leap you've made. I'm supposedly angry because "the Liberals are going down to election defeat, yet again".

    Well, what can I say? That you're living in a bubble that rivals anything inside the Bush Whitehouse? That you're so divorced from reality you've hired a hit man to hide in her apartment and kill her? Or are you merely a stupid Republican, who gets his kicks from trolling about things you know to be true?

    I'm betting the latter. When you talk about election defeat, you know for a fact that that isn't happening in Oregon. We win here. You also know that the public in the rest of the country is sick of Republican lies, so no amount of false prosperity from a short run of massive Administrative borrow-and-spending is going to change that. So to salve your massive ego, you come onto a Democratic site and entertain yourself by lying.

    You're a sick, twisted little man, Daniel, not worth anyone's effort; after a lifetime of selfishness, few will mourn you when you die.

    The only reason I respond at all, is because someone has to. For 20 years, Democrats have taken the high road - assuming, incorrectly, that the public could differentiate between established fact, and blatantly obvious lies. Well, no longer. We will no longer allow smear-boating to stand. We will call Republican lies out, and call racists what they are.

    And if you have a problem with it? Well good. Your bullying will not work. And we are not afraid.

  • askquestions1st (unverified)
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    Harry and Dan -

    I think the real question is just how diseased is your soul that talking on your cellphone while you are driving (and just plain getting your way) is more important than the lives of family, friends, and neighbors.

    We know that the guy you worship as a false god rotted his already damaged brain with drugs and alcohol, and that he and your Republican buddies hate America so much that they have sent the kids, wives, and husbands of the fellow Americans to die based on the most transparent of lies. Not to mention spending much of the last couple of weeks debating just how much we should invite the world to torture our troops if they are captured. And, of course, they also helped their buddies to loot not only the countries they destroyed, but also to loot our country so that the troops coming back physically and psychologically maimed can't get the treatment they need and deserve.

    Is that what excites you and your pals? Is that what makes you smile?

    So come on. Show us more of what really turns on folks like you, and just what kind of future you really want for us. We all need to see exactly what the depth of the dreams you have for our state and country before we cast our votes.

  • jami (unverified)
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    i'm for an all-ages ban on cell phones while driving. a cell phone driver just killed a bicyclist in beaverton a month or two ago, taking a left turn without noticing that there was a bike there.

    i see macpherson's proposal as a great first step, but i can see how younger folks might feel singled-out.

  • jami (unverified)
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    dickey, the scientists who found that talking on a cell phone makes a person's driving worse than talking to a passenger suggested that because the passenger is also aware of road conditions, there are lulls in the conversation where the driver needs them.

  • Dan (unverified)
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    Steve,

    that was a beauty. So much rage and righteous indignation.

    I especially liked...

    You're a sick, twisted little man, Daniel, not worth anyone's effort; after a lifetime of selfishness, few will mourn you when you die.

    I actually printed that one off. It may come in handy some day.

    It's interesting that you call me "twisted", yet a quick read of your post show you to be the one who has come un-glued.

    In therapy, we call this projection.

    ;-)<

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    i see macpherson's proposal as a great first step

    I think it is really a last step. Focusing on kids is a way to avoid the much more difficult task of convincing their parents that their own behavior is just as big a problem, if not worse. It also is not nearly as threatening to the cell phone companies.

  • askquestions1st (unverified)
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    i see macpherson's proposal as a great first step

    I agree 100% with Ross Williams on this:

    I think it is a last step. Focusing on kids is a way to avoid the much more difficult task of convincing their parents that their own behavior is just as big a problem, if not worse.

    I'm going to go further and pull out and rework an old chestnut that some of you will be too young to remember, but that is suddenly, horribly relevant.

    If an 18-year-old is old enough to die for his or her country, particularly based on lies by the kind of leaders that unpatriotic, America-hating bottom-dwellers like Don get all wet over, than he or she old enough to not be singled out and juvenilized in this moronic way for political expediency by what are apparently poor examples of Democrat leaders like Rep. and Mrs. MacPherson.

    And for those of you too young to remember, the original slogan from the 1960's was: "If an 18-year-old is old enough to die for his (and even then there were those dying for her country also, we just didn't give them the respect they were due in those times), than he is old enough to have a drink." One really has to wonder exactly has gone wrong in a state and country that will try a 13-year-old as an adult, but has a Democrat proposing that a 20-year old should be treated differently from a 21-year old when it comes to using a cellphone.

    By the way Rep. and Mrs. MacPherson - we are still waiting for the courtesy of your response to the debate hear on the legislation you propose. You most certainly owe us that because you are claiming to represent the people.

  • nina (unverified)
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    while i do not like the idea of government further intruding into the choices of our everyday lives, something needs to be done about ALL folks who drive and talk. (i have had many near-misses with folks on their cell phones and their ages have varied.) study after study shows the dangers of this choice. i only wish folks would show some responsibility in this matter so that the government didn't have to step in..........

  • craig (unverified)
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    why restrict by age at all? why not ban the use of cellphones for all drivers?

open discussion

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