Eventually drivers will get message about cellphones


You can only do so much to make people behave. Ask anyone whose toddler has made his bedroom walls prettier with a red crayon.

And so it goes on the roadways, where the red crayon is a cellphone and the toddler is driving a 4,000-pound SUV that takes 150 feet to come to a stop.

Wah, the toddler screams. I want my phone! I want, I want, I want.

Yeah. Who wants a time out?

It just so happens that Martin has this same complaint.

“I have a concern that regards using cellphones while driving,” he wrote. He noted that the law prohibiting the use of a cellphone while behind the wheel went into effect last year. Still, people talk on their phones all the dang time. Cops, sometimes. One guy he knows, he wrote, has been ticketed six times for the offense.

What gives?

This is exactly like your toddler. When he grows a little older, he will stop leaving the Legos on the floor like tiny landmines ready to detonate the moment you step on them.

And people will, eventually, start paying attention to the cellphone ban.

Why am I so optimistic? Seat belts.

It used to be, lots of cars didn’t even have seat belts in them. Then the government started requiring manufacturers to include them with new cars.

But you still didn’t have to wear them. So most people didn’t.

Eventually, of course, that changed. People resisted. For a long time.

Just 20 years ago, long after Nevada and most other states had made wearing a seat belt mandatory, almost half the people studied still didn’t wear them.

Now? It’s up to 86 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It has been more than 90 percent in Nevada since 2005.

That’s good. Traffic deaths have plummeted since seat belt use started rising. That’s no accident.

Will the same thing happen when people eventually stop using their cellphones while driving?

Yes.

And people will stop. They will grumble about the long arm of the law. They will ignore the public-service campaigns. They will secretly think that the law should apply to all those bad drivers out there, but not to them.

And then, the changes will seep in. The ad campaigns will do their job. There will be more people like Martin, the one who lodged this complaint, than there are people who look the other way.

The first step was the law. The next one is public education.

There’s a bill before the State Senate right now that starts that process. Senate Bill 143 has multiple sponsors. It’s got the support of the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The bill would mandate that a question about the cellphone ban be added to the state driver’s license exam. If it passes, every person who takes that exam would theoretically have to know about the law, if they studied up.

That’s not a solution. It’s not a quick fix. But it is a start.

Next up: Making talking on a cellphone while driving as socially unacceptable as driving without a seat belt has become.

Susan wrote in with this one: “The developer of Mountain’s Edge was to widen Durango in this area but it was postponed during the recession. Is there an update? There are long backups daily and frequent fender benders when approaching the intersection of Durango and Pebble south of Windmill due to the single lane of traffic backing up.”

Good one, Susan. And you’re right. The developer was supposed to widen that road, but the recession hit, and the county let him back out of it.

Now, the $4.8-million project is being funded through the Regional Transportation Commission.

Dan Kulin, a spokesman for Clark County, said Durango Road will get widened between Blue Diamond Road and Windmill Lane soon, though. The design phase is just finishing up. It should go out to bid and construction should begin before the end of the year.

That’s nice and all, but it’s typical of what goes on in this town. We build the neighborhoods before we build the roads. That’s exactly backward of how it should be.

Next time, let’s make the developers build the roads first.

Bob wondered when the freeway folks were going to build an interchange at U.S. Highway 95 and the Las Vegas Beltway in the northern valley.

Not soon, Bob.

While it’s fine and dandy to add a question to the driver’s license test at virtually no cost, or to widen a road that’s already there, it costs bajillions of dollars to build a new freeway interchange. (That’s a math term. Look it up.)

Damon Hodge, a spokesman for the Nevada Department of Transportation, said there isn’t any money available to build the interchange. That’s just the way it is. Those of us who live out that way will have to be patient.

Lastly, for all the folks who send in questions about the flashing yellow turn lights, look at the story above this column. There’s a little explanation that should answer your questions.

Got a transportation question, comment or gripe? Ship it off to roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com. Follow the Road Warrior on Twitter @RJroadwarrior.