Unintended consequences of cellphone law

Most Nevadans would doubtless agree it makes sense to ban sending or reading text messages while driving. But how about touching a cellphone “while operating a motor vehicle”?

That’s what the Legislature outlawed this year, figuring, “Problem solved.”

As of Oct. 1, police in Nevada can issue warnings for that offense — even answering a phone call while idling at a red light. If the car is running and you’re behind the wheel, they consider you to be “operating” it.

And as of Jan. 1, that offense could cost you a fine of $100 to $362.

So guess what has officers upset? People are obeying the law!

Many drivers are now pulling onto the shoulders of busy highways and even freeways to take or make cellphone calls, complains Nevada Highway Patrol spokesman Chuck Allen, who calls this “an unforeseen problem.”

He said the shoulders are meant for emergency uses only and pulling onto them could be dangerous for drivers, particularly at night.

Well, duh. If the phone rings and it’s a child who could be in trouble, or your employer is letting you know you’re needed back early from lunch, lawmakers thought we were all going to circle around for 15 minutes, looking for a safe residential side street on which to park before answering?

There’s nothing in the law about ticketing drivers who decide to pull onto a shoulder to make a call, but Mr. Allen said drivers should realize that if they pull off to the side of the road they could be struck by another vehicle and injured or even killed.

Or maybe lawmakers might want to consider all the likely ramifications of their hundred-thousandth new law before racing to chisel it into the Nevada Revised Statutes.

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