Keep your eyes on the road

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As the new year rolled in, the new Nevada law banning cell phone use while driving went into effect.

Nevada is the latest to join a growing number of locations around the world—from California to Kenya—that prohibit cell phone use while driving, and it’s the 34th state in the United States to outlaw text messaging while driving. The restrictions included in the law make it illegal in Nevada to use a handheld cell phone to talk, text message or use the internet, even at stoplights or while idling in traffic. A $50 first-time ticket could ultimately cost about $112, including court fees, according to Reno police.

Enforcement of the law in Nevada is primary, meaning that police can stop and ticket drivers for that reason alone.

It is always difficult to make the transition when a new law takes away a tool many people are accustomed to using. But, as new technology changes the way we conduct our everyday lives, laws must be added to accommodate these advances, and the ban on cell phone use while driving is an important step.

After the law was signed, Nevadans were given a trial period to get used to the cell phone ban without the threat of full consequences. Since October, Nevada drivers have been given warnings that enforcement of the law would begin on Jan. 1.

However, although drivers have been receiving verbal warnings regarding the new ban for the past three months, many have still been ignoring the restriction because it is difficult for people to adjust to losing something they’re used to having (see: Prohibition).

I’m sure most of us have used a cell phone at a potentially dangerous time. Sometimes drivers have something important to communicate. It happens.

But the law really is important and useful. And it really won’t hurt a driver to hold off on checking the phone until his or her destination is reached.

There are a lot of dangerous things people can do while driving, but cell phone use is particularly dangerous because of how thoroughly it distracts the driver from the task at hand. If something crosses a motorists’ path that might cause a crash, an attentive driver has the opportunity to slow down or swerve in an effort to lessen the impact.

But those who happen to be updating their Facebook status and don’t notice the impending peril won’t have the chance to react, and the crash will be that much more severe. And the fact that drivers are putting others in danger so they can hold a conversation with their buddies or surf the ’net just adds insult to injury.

However, though the Nevada law is a reasonable step, it is not perfect. Other states, such as Oregon, include an exception in their cell phone bans that allows cell phone use “in the scope of the person’s employment if operation of the motor vehicle is necessary for the person’s job.” Last summer, I rode with a tow truck driver who told me he had no choice but to break the California law against cell phone use while driving because he needed to call other drivers in order to conduct his business. I wasn’t quite sure why he couldn’t just use a Bluetooth headset.

As with any new law that deals with recent developments in technology, these cell phone bans should change as technology changes. We no longer live in a society that can function properly without the use of devices such as cell phones and laptop computers. Lawmakers and politicians do not seem to completely understand this fact.

It is important to find a balance in legislation between what will ensure the safety of the people while allowing them to participate in normal and necessary activities.