As reported by The New York Times‘ excellent health columnist Tara Parker-Pope, all use of cellular telephones while operating an automobile — in both “hands-free” and hands-on forms — is as dangerous as drunk driving, research announced today shows. That means many thousands of people in the USA and around the world are being killed each year by the public’s continuing toleration of this ubiquitous practice.
The cellular telephone industry’s response? It’s well worth reading in its entirety:
Safe Driving- Everyone’s Responsibility
: January 12, 2009 8:50 AM
Posted By: John Walls, Vice President, Public Affairs, CTIA – The Wireless Association®
Related Categories: Wireless & Safety
This morning the National Safety Council announced it now supports a total ban of cell phone use while operating a vehicle. There is no question that irresponsible use of a wireless device is on the long list of potential driving distractions, including the NHTSA documented number one driver distraction of drowsiness. The industry agrees with the National Safety Council and numerous other well-regarded safety organizations on several safety issues, such as bans on text messaging while driving and restricting cellular use by teen or inexperienced drivers. But when looking at the implications of a total ban, it’s important to look at all of the situations that can occur and consider the ramifications of a total prohibition.
For example, should a mom or dad be prevented from taking a call from their 14 year old daughter, telling them the movie she was at ended a lot earlier than expected, and that she and her friends were out front waiting for a ride home? Or that their young son was at a different entrance to the mall or the school with his friends, and they wanted to tell their parent there had been change of plans and they were somewhere else? How many times a day in the country do you think a businessperson needs to let a client know they’re running a few minutes behind for that important meeting, and that a call, dialed sensibly and kept brief, could inform the client and maybe save a deal and certainly soothe any hard feelings from a misunderstanding. Calls to or from day care, the school nurse, your boss… there’s a long list of very real scenarios that illustrate practical needs to responsibly make or take a brief call.
We believe that safe, sensible, and limited use of a cell phone when you’re behind the wheel is possible. There are certainly inappropriate times to make or take a call, and your number one driving priority is always operating the vehicle safely. The fact of the matter is there are numerous well-known and proven driving distractions, and addressing just one of them (and one that by many accounts is significantly down the list) could very well lead to a false sense of security for drivers. There are reckless and inattentive driving statutes on the books in all of the states, and law enforcement officers have the discretion to enforce those as they see fit. We completely support that action…. If someone is driving irresponsibly because of cell phone use, they ought to be cited for that. And under current law, they can be.
The industry also has a long-standing commitment to a public service announcement campaign regarding safe driving, and that includes a new set of radio ads which we offered to co-brand, at no cost to them, with state chapters of the Governor’s Highway Safety Association. We are also proud of the fact that nearly 300,000 calls are made every day to 911, via a cellphone. The devices are perhaps the greatest safety tool we have today, and as I said earlier, there are a multitude of scenarios where responsible, sensible, safe, and brief use is possible and should be a part of any discussion.
As you can see, this is a true classic of capitalist obfuscation, obstruction, and excuse-making.
Shall we parse the highlighted phrases and their actual meanings?
“irresponsible use”: The problem here is the users, not the makers. (Note: This is every heroin dealer’s defense. It is also every corporate capitalist’s.)
“long list of potential driving distractions”: Automobile travel is multiply dangerous. So why are you picking on us?
“number one driver distraction of drowsiness”: Sure, we kill, but we aren’t the number one killer.
“it’s important to look at all of the situations that can occur and consider the ramifications”: Here comes our best argument.
Best Argument #1: “their 14 year-old daughter”: If you ban cellular phoning while driving, your daughter is more likely to be abducted, raped, …. (Note: Threats have been a classic vehicle of overclass coercion, throughout history. They remain in force, partially as a core device in big business marketing campaigns. Death threats like this one are rare, but certainly not unpredented. Think of long-running Michelin tire imagery, or Florida orange growers’ ads.)
Best Argument #2: “save a deal”: Business deals are more important than automotive fatalities.
“your number one driving priority”: We repeat — the problem is you and your priorities, not us and ours.
“a false sense of security”: Now we’re just getting Orwellian on your ass. To wit, if we eliminated cell phone calling from cars, you idiots might get cocky and drive even worse! That’s right, cell phone calling actually makes driving safer, by scaring them with some healthy dangers.
“law enforcement officers have the discretion to enforce those as they see fit”: Existing laws could cover this problem, so why bother making them explicit? Yes, and billionaires have the perfect right to sleep under bridges.
“If someone is driving irresponsibly because of cell phone use, they ought to be cited for that.” Rather than directing police by making clear and definite laws, let’s pretend our discussion here is enough to accomplish the needed (but not needed) standard.
“long-standing commitment”: We knew about this all along, and took care of the problem long ago.
“a public service announcement campaign regarding safe driving”: Public service advertising is a perfectly good substitute for laws, so why trouble ourselves with law-making?
“300,000 911 calls a day”: Now we’re changing the subject. And, of course, we don’t mention how many of those 911 calls come from inside moving automobiles.
“perhaps the greatest safety tool we have today”: Our product has some legitimate uses, so you shouldn’t be asking any questions about its illegitimate ones.
All this is but the latest airing of the timeless behind-the-scenes voice of capital, which, as it continues to promulgate unsafe products and product uses, has long said to itself and its caretakers:
‘Après moi, le déluge!’ [‘After me, the flood!’] is the watchword of every capitalist and every capitalist nation. Capital is reckless of the health or length of life of the laborer, unless under compulsion from society. To outcries about physical and mental degradation, premature death, the torture of overwork, it answers: ‘Ought these to trouble us, since they increase our profits?