Logical Arguments for and Against Laws Against Using Cell Phones While Driving

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With more and more people using cellular phones, a new debate has surfaced. Should there be laws against using cell phones while driving? The statistics about distracted driving, which includes any type of distraction, show that distracted driving causes accidents. According to the United States Department of Transportation, 5,747 people were killed because of driving distractions and approximately 448,000 were injured in 2009 alone (1) Using a cell phone is just another way that driver are distracted. The debate rages on…should there be a specific law against using cell phones while driving. Some states are passing laws specifically for inexperienced drivers, just as they restrict the times inexperienced drivers are allowed to drive. For our purposed, however, we will look at the debate over whether or not there should be a law banning general cell phone usage. This is a very sensitive subject, mostly because both sides present some logical arguments, but a variety of fallacies can be found on both sides of this hot issue.

This entire debate is nothing new. Distracted driving has been a hot topic since 1905, and there were no cell phones back then. The big advancement in technology then was windshield wiper blades. They were thought to be hypnotic, and distract drivers. (AAA). From there it went to the radio in the 1930’s. Here in the 21st century, we’ve landed on cellular phones. Same debate, different details. When it comes to hands free cell phone usage while driving, both sides have scientific studies and statistics to back up their cases. According to a study funded by AAA Foundation for Traffic safety, using a hands free device holds approximately the same distraction as tuning the radio (AAA). However, there are also reports that having a conversation while driving with a hands free device is much more risky than having a conversation with somebody who is also in the car with you (Dewar 327). A recent study showed that only 2% of people can safely multi task while driving. This was compared to the same amount of people who would make good fighter pilots (Cruz, pg 1). This quote from Matt Duffy shows how some opponents to a law feel. “I will vow to be careful while on the phone — and to use a headset or speakerphone whenever possible so that I can keep both hands on the wheel. But, I won’t take the vow to quit using the phone in the car.” (Duffy) The “vow” that Mr. Duffy is speaking of refers to a campaign by Oprah Winfrey. She has heavily campaigned for a law against using a phone without a hands free device and laws against texting while driving. In a press release, she stated: “My biggest hope for the No Phone Zone campaign is that it becomes mandatory that no one uses their phone in the car or texts while driving—just as seat belts are mandatory, just as driving while drunk is considered absolutely taboo, I'm hoping that this becomes not just law, but second nature for all of us” (Harpo). We can look at Oprah’s statement as an “Argument by Analogy.” Her logic says that because we have driving laws about not wearing seatbelts and driving drunk, which are both dangerous activities, we should also have a law about using cell phones while driving, another dangerous activity.

Opponents pose some interesting questions, though. As previously stated, there are other activities that distract drivers. Dealing with children in the car, changing the radio station, and eating are just a few. According to the NHTSA, of all 2009 fatalities that were caused by distracted driving, approximately 20% involved a cell phone (pg 8). So, they bring up laws against other distractions. Should there also be laws against these distractions, because they are just as, if not more, dangerous? (Johnstone) If we used Oprah’s argument by analogy, if these activities did cause just as many accidents as cell phones, she would have to back laws against these things, also. But this also presents the “slippery...
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