Citizen Catches Pol Phone-Handed
Kathleen Gregory was driving home from work when she saw a guy yammering on a phone held to his ear--one of the countless violations of the District's law restricting cell conversations to those using hands-free devices.
But as she got closer, she recognized the man behind the wheel--it was D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2.) When she got home, Gregory dashed off a note to the man who should know better:
Mr Evans - Of all people, I would expect the legislators in this city to follow the law. I was driving behind you yesterday on my way home from work. I could instantly tell you were on the phone, hand-held, by the way you were driving - not concentrating on the road, going well below the speed limit, with no particular direction. Maybe you shouldn't have a license plate that tells everyone who you are, and I am sure it makes you a target, but you have to follow the laws, too! I am sure you are a contributing member of the council but can I tell you how annoying it is to see people who enact the laws not following them??? Yes, there are bigger things to complain about, and yes, there are bigger issues to be dealt with, but it all comes back to decency and fairness, and the little things! Please purchase a headset and use it - I am sure i am not the first annoyed citizen. If a law is worth enacting, surely it is worth following.
A few days later, she got a reply, just a single line, but a no-excuses mea culpa nonetheless. Evans copped to the violation and said he should have known better.
The D.C. police continue to dish out hundreds and hundreds of tickets for cell phone violations. Has it made a difference? The police say yes, I say minimal at best. It is not possible to drive around Washington without seeing lots of drivers flouting the law. Of course, the research on handheld vs hands-free phone use casts significant doubt on whether the hands-free devices really make much of a difference--it's the act of conducting a phone conversation, not the mechanics of handling the phone, that creates the bulk of the distraction.
But let's be real--people aren't going to stop talking on the phone while they drive. Hands-free is probably marginally safer than trying to cradle a too-small phone into the crick of your neck. And the council members ought to behave as if they know people are monitoring them, because as long as the city's politicians continue to drive around with highly visible VIP plates on their cars, we'll all be watching.
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