DEAR ABBY: This is a response to your answer to Carol Rushing of Omaha, in which you said there should be a law restricting the use of cell phones while driving.
Your knee-jerk reaction harms all of our freedoms. Perhaps you will next suggest we pass laws that state:
-- No tuning the radio while driving.
-- No looking at your passenger during conversation while driving.
-- No adjusting the temperature while driving.
-- No driving without eight hours of sleep.
I could go on and on. We'll always have tragic accidents no matter how many laws you try to pass. This potential loss of freedom is much more tragic.
The marketplace can address these issues without requiring more laws. For example, the radio and heat controls could be located on the steering wheel for ease of use while driving. And there's no reason the cell phone can't be integrated into the car to allow hands-free use. Remember the CB radio? Truck drivers have used them for more than 20 years while driving. You just have to give people the time to adjust to new technology, not attach restrictive laws with each new development. -- TOM LYNCH, CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA
DEAR TOM: As someone who has seen drivers holding cell phones in one hand and gesturing with the other while driving, I must disagree. A study in 1997 by the University of Toronto researchers Donald Redelmeier and Robert Tibshirani concluded that drivers talking on cell phones are four times as likely to have an accident as those who do not use cell phones while behind the wheel. The communications director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety was recently quoted as saying, "There's no question they (cell phones) contribute to crashes." Read on:
DEAR ABBY: Your suggestion of a law requiring people to pull over to use car phones is a good one. I have read that statistically, talking on the phone while driving is as dangerous as drunk driving. Why isn't this publicized more? My husband commutes, and amost daily must act fast to dodge drivers who are talking on their cell phones while zooming along at 85 mph and darting in and out of freeway traffic. I think phoning and driving should be as illegal as drinking and driving.
How about a campaign, Abby, with slogans and posters: "It was the last call he ever made," or, "There are no phones in coffins," or a picture of a mom in a hospital bed, with the words: "She can't come to the phone right now -- she's in a coma." It could save as many lives as Mothers Against Drunk Driving. -- MARY SUE PLANCK, SAN FRANCISCO (CALL ME WHATEVER YOU WANT, BUT DON'T DO IT FROM YOUR CAR)
DEAR MARY SUE: Thank you for a letter that's sure to be thought-provoking for many people with cell phones. If it makes just one person pull over and stop before making a call, it will have been worth the space in my column.
P.S. Has anybody ever told you that you have a flair for advertising? The ad campaign you've conceived could be a blockbuster.