Back when I lived in Seattle, the cab ride from Sea-Tac Airport to Capitol Hill could be a long 45 minutes. One time while racing down I-5 at highway speed I looked over the front seat of the dilapidated taxi in which I was riding to see my driver holding his phone under the window line, sending a text. Washington state outlawed texting while driving in late 2007, and I knew this. I not-so-politely told the driver to stop texting, and he not-so-politely told me no. I was so incensed that I demanded he pull over while I called his boss to report him. With him facing the loss of a $50 fare and me facing the reality of standing on the side of a 10-lane freeway alone with my suitcases, we compromised. He stopped texting.

Gov. Brian Sandoval recently signed into law a ban on handheld mobile phone use in cars. This isn’t an assault on your Droids, iPhones and Blackberrys, this is smart policy. Granted, laws banning mobile phone use in cars will not eradicate this dangerous behavior, just as DUI laws do not stop people from drinking and driving. We know they won’t. However, legislatively defining mobile phone use while driving as a crime will undoubtedly cut down on the practice and legally assign blame where blame is due.

Effective Oct. 1, drivers will be required to use a hands-free device when on the phone, and texting has been banned outright. The first violation is a misdemeanor coupled with a $50 fine. The second violation within seven years brings a $100 fine and $250 for the third. The third offense also results in a six-month license suspension. The law does contain a variety of exceptions for emergency and police personnel, utility workers and amateur radio operators, depending on the circumstance. For several months, police will give warning tickets to violators of the new law.

Nevada has joined eight other states that ban the use of handheld phones while driving. Thirty-three other states plus the District of Columbia currently prohibit texting only.

Driving today has become an afterthought. People no longer believe that driving requires their full attention; they’re convinced it’s OK to fumble with the navigation screen and update Facebook rather than pay attention to what their 3,000 pound vehicle is doing.

Driving is a complex skill that is acquired by countless hours of practice and experience. It requires concentration on various tasks, in real time, as well as an awareness of everything going on both in and out of the vehicle.

As a conservative, I’m all for personal responsibility. However, personal responsibility doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want and screw everyone else. Take some for yourself: Don’t get hammered and then get behind the wheel. Pay your insurance every month to protect yourself and others. Wear your seatbelt and yes, hit the Bluetooth button when you get in the car.

The grim reality of laws banning mobile phone use in cars is that people will still do so, but try to hide it from the Federales. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have the laws. To those on the far right who grouse that laws like this are unnecessary, I remind you we also have car insurance laws, safety belt laws, and—sorry Sen. Gustavson—motorcycle helmet laws. It’s a free country, and I agree that if someone wishes to put themselves in harm’s way by not making the right decisions, then that’s their prerogative. However, if I may be the one who has to pick up the check for their injuries, paralysis or death, I’m not OK with that. Sandoval was right to sign this into law, and Nevada’s roads are a safer place because of it.