IT WAS such a momentous news day Wednesday that you might not have remembered that your legislature is pretty busy in Harrisburg.
So while we concentrated on everything happening in Mercer County today — and the continuing impeachment battle in Washington – we did not want to let one little piece of legislation slip by.
The legislature decided by a vote of 120-74 to ban the use of handheld cellphones in vehicles.
So, that means if you do not have a Bluetooth device in your car, you cannot legally use your phone while driving.
And because legislators are always afraid when they make a decision that might upset constituents who prefer that they not tell them what to do in their private lives, the Republican-controlled legislature made sure that a police officer cannot stop you just because you are using your phone.
Too bad there was so much hand-wringing. This one should have been a no-brainer.
If you drive on a highway in Pennsylvania, or anywhere else for that matter, you know how many times you see a driver texting or otherwise distracted with a cellphone.
And most often, the reason you notice is because of an erratic driving pattern or a car that is easing into your lane until it is jerked back into its proper place after you sound your horn.
Cellphones are a major problem on America’s highways. It is illegal to text and drive, but that does not mean that people don’t do it. And there have been many tragic tales of the consequences of that decision.
It used to be that a phone call could wait, that you could stop at a pay phone and make an emergency call, but that unless it was critically important, you waited until you got home.
Now, cellphones, while a safety tool in some cases, have become a convenience and a novelty. So that means that teenagers are not just checking in with Mom and Dad, but they are also talking to their friends while they are in the car.
And the same is true for adults. Calls and texts don’t wait anymore. And we are seeing the result on the nation’s roadways.
So a cellphone ban — even this weak one — is still a step in making people think before they reach for their cellphones in the car.
There are already enough distractions on the highway today — satellite radio, GPS, and myriad other technological advancements to make driving a more pleasant experience.
The last thing we need is something else to concentrate on other than the road.
Distracted driving is a thing — and it is a dangerous thing — whether you are 16 or 65 and whether you are on a road or a highway.
Add in speed, poor weather conditions and the risk you take anyway when you are traveling and you have a recipe for senseless loss of life.
So if the law doesn’t have the teeth it needs to make many drivers think twice before rummaging around for their phones and typing up that “quick text,” perhaps there is another way to make the point.
Maybe they would listen to a few stories from the families who have lost a loved one on the highway.
We feel pretty sure that at least it would make them slow down a bit before deciding that a call that could wait is important enough to risk their life.