I don’t know if it’s just me trying to compensate for having gone to an undergraduate school where we didn’t have a community around us (UC San Diego), but I’ve always really loved college towns. From my experiences in West Lafayette, Indiana where everything was Purdue-centric to our current home town of Boulder Colorado, built around the University of Colorado, college towns are my favorite sort of places.
That’s one reason that a story about Lawrence, Kansas caught my eye: I’ve been there for a couple of academic meetings in the last decade and really enjoyed the small town community. In fact, I’d be as bold as to say that it might well be the most livable city in the entire state of Kansas! Why they’re in the news is both interesting and very typical for the town: City considers banning cell phone use in cars.
I keep going back and forth on whether I support this idea, though. On the one hand, it’s scary to see how many people are perpetually distracted, chatting away on their cell phones while driving 65mph or faster on the roads, but on the other hand, I use my cell phone while I’m driving too and it would be a drag to be cut off.
Try this experiment for yourself, however: stand on a busy street corner and eyeball the first 20 drivers who pass you. How many are on a cell phone? I bet it’ll be at least five, and possibly quite a few more depending on how “type A” your particular city’s denizens may be. In laid-back Boulder, I can often see about a 30% phone usage pattern with this sort of observation.
Now to be fair, the majority of these people do just fine with their cellphones, and some of them even have handsfree devices, whether headsets or true hands free setups in their cars, but the 30% I see are the people that don’t have those, so we’re talking about that percentage of people who don’t have both hands to devote to driving, not to mention the full use of their brains and senses.
The city council in Lawrence thinks that maybe it’s just time to ban cell phone usage entirely, whether it’s with a headset, hands-free device or regular old little handset.
I’d be adversely affected by it personally, but y’know what? I think I agree with them.