Killing us softly with their song
Cellphones kill 17 in road crashes”, screamed the newspaper headline, or something like it. I almost choked on the latte (come on, I live in Auckland). Seventeen people a year being killed because drivers are using cellphones, I thought to myself. Almost enough to warrant reconsidering my “yeah, right” attitude to the problem. And then I read on. It was actually 17 deaths over seven years. And on the strength of that, the Nanny-State brigade are calling for a blanket ban on the use of cellphones in vehicles, including a ban on the use of hands-free kits.
“It’s not the cellphone that’s the worst problem,” they wail to sympathetic, liberal, control-freak journalistic lap-puppies, “it’s the conversation. People can’t drive and talk at the same time. It’s not safe!” No. Apparently not. Not with a rampaging death rate of two and a half people per year. What’s next, a lead story in the Herald telling us, shock horror, “100% increase in cellphone-related fatalities prompts call for Government to introduce emergency regulations…”?
Ah, they’re a right little bunch of comedians, these.
It’s almost enough to make me think Darwin might actually have been right. Perhaps a segment of our population, mainly in the left-wing liberal camp, really are the natural descendants of apes and that’s why we’re fast becoming a banana republic. Buried, a week later, in a much smaller story in the paper was Matthew Dearnaley’s brave attempt to provide some much needed balance. He reported that the biggest distractions for drivers in road smashes were passengers talking and/or drivers reaching for or looking for something while they drove.
Add to that the third-largest factor in road smashes – fiddling with those pesky, all-the-bells-and-whistles-you-can-afford car stereos with the really really really small buttons and even tinier writing on the knobs – and you’ve got a whole heap of bigger causes of road fatalities than cellphones.
You are actually more at risk, in Auckland anyway because I’ve seen it happen, of being pinged in a cellphone drive-by where – either as pedestrian or fellow passing motorist – you’re clouted around the head as a result of another enraged driver throwing their malfunctioning phone with the fiddly buttons out the window.
Cellphones are a distraction for drivers, don’t get me wrong. They can, in some cases, lead to road accidents. But how many more accidents are caused by three year old twins Amanda and Timothy in the back screeching like proverbial banshees because one bit the other or you didn’t go the route they wanted or you just passed an icecream shop without stopping – need I go on?
Then there’s autocide – suicide by car. It’s a fair bet that a large chunk of our road fatalities each year are people who’d had enough of the screaming in the back seat, or anywhere else for that matter.
Frankly, I can’t see why the Government is even bothering with this half-baked plan to ban cellphones and headsets when Frau Clark could simply wave her dictatorial finger and get the thought police in Labour’s Cabinet to adopt the full-baked version and simply ban road accidents. Fullstop.
We could have the police officers currently manning speed traps reassigned to ride shotgun in ambulances, where they could sternly admonish and occasionally administer a jolly good kicking to victims of roadcrashes, and slap ‘em with an instant $500 fine before they even reach the hospital.
Because let’s face it: if the logic behind banning cellphones is to ensure drivers don’t get distracted by conversations, then we may as well ban passenger seats in vehicles. Only then could you reduce the likelihood of a conversation breaking out. Governments introduce stupid laws by first creating a climate of fear and then milking those fears for all they’re worth. And the biggest tragedy is that New Zealand’s Fourth Estate is complicit in the crime.