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Lawmakers Make Gabbing Behind the Wheel Illegal

Lawmakers in Suffolk County, New York have made it illegal for people to juggle talking on a cell phone while driving a car. The move marks the first county in the U.S. to put the clamps on ubiquitous multitasking motorists, but it won't likely be the last. The law will go live in 2001, and makes the violation a finable offense to the tune of $150.

Frankly, I'm floored that lawmakers throughout the country haven't been inclined to enact this sort of legislation sooner. There's nothing more aggravating than a reckless driver with their flapjack surgically attached to a cell phone, and the potential dangers are readily apparent. I'll 'fess up and let you know that I'm no fan of the serial cell-user. I'm not talking about the discreet businessperson on the go. I'm talking about the wannabe who uses the mobile device as a veritable vanity plate.

How many times have you been to a social event, and despite the master of ceremonies' best efforts to direct attendees to shut off their cell-phones and beepers, inevitably some goof's belt-buckle in the next row starts playing La Cucaracha? There are plenty of alternative ways to be alerted by an incoming call, and I'm convinced it's a sign of insecure people desperate for a little attention. And while we're on the subject of cellular telephones, for such a bright-eyed invention, how come users' conversations always sound the same?

*Obnoxious personalized ring*
Joe: Hello?
Joe: Hi Jane.
Joe: I can't hear you, Janeyou're breaking up.
Joe: Hold onI'll call you back.

Or the play-by-play:

*Obnoxious personalized ring*
Joe: Hello?
Joe: Hi Jane.
Joe: Yeah, I'm just eating my dinner in a restaurant talking on my cell phone.
Joe: Yeah, I'm just eating my Caesar salad now.
Joe: Yeah, I'm just washing it down with some iced tea.
Joe: Oknice talking to youI'll call you later.

But petty annoyances are one thing. Driving while dialing and gabbing is just flat-out dangerous. our The phenomenon of driving while talking on a cell phone is a byproduct of constantly multitasking society. Traffic isn't enough to keep drivers' Post-It note attention spans occupied anymore. These days it's a Chalupa in one hand while tuning the radio with the other, with one knee on the wheel. And of course, that cell phone precariously balanced between one's shoulder and half an ear.

Look, I traditionally detest government sticking its nose into peoples' private business. But cell phone users have a lot to learn about mobile etiquette 101. Could be a few rotten apples spoiling it for the bunch, but the coming backlash against talking-head motorists is on the loose. Watch for other state and local government lawmakers to follow suit, and most handhelds to be outlawed behind the wheel over the next five years. You'll be happy to know you can still continue to chat away with a hands-free device, but at least you'll have an appendage free to grab the wheel and another to shoot the occasional bird.

Any questions or comments, love letters or hate mail? As always, feel free to forward them to kblack@internet.com.

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