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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Monday, February 26

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Tim / May 12, 2005 11:33 AM

...wait a minute...I need to put my phone hard to surf the net, talk, drive and work this tiny keyboard....

steven / May 12, 2005 11:33 AM

First off, I have to admit, I've dialed while driving before, so I'm not one of the innocent. That said, thank god for this, even if it ends up not being enforced all that well. At least it's there. 99% of the time, when I have a problem with someone driving like an idiot, they're talking on the phone. Now maybe they'll have 2 hands on the wheel...after they've spent countless hours of driving time trying to figure out how to use the headsets.

Tim / May 12, 2005 11:44 AM

Agreed. people driving like idiots is related to cell phone use, handheld and otherwise. Also, the need to talk on a cellphone all the time (work reasons aside) is an indicator of a deep problem with self-esteem and inner personal sadness. Perhaps it is the need to fill that empty place where a soul belongs. Oh, wait, did I write that outloud?

Matt / May 12, 2005 11:47 AM

It won't stop me from using my cell phone while driving. The Chicago Police have better things to do. Even if they enforce it here and there it won't deter me. If I am ever caught I won't pay either. The ban doesn't cover the interstates that go through the city either as they are the jurisdiction of the state, not Chicago.

The whole issue is a waste of time and will be ignored like so many other useless city ordinances.

wackpuma / May 12, 2005 11:48 AM

Even when I am not using my cellphone, 90 percent of the time I drive with one hand. I see no problem with it.

If you can still talk on the cellphone but just have to use a headset then all the law does is say you can't hold the phone to your ear while you drive. This is the same as making a law against holding a cup of coffee and drinking it while you drive.

I don't think that the real problem is dialing and holding the phone. Its that when some poeple talk on the phone, they tune out paying attention to driving. Some poeple will say its the same as having a coversation with someone in the passanger seat, but its not.

miss ellen / May 12, 2005 11:50 AM

unfortunately, my time is so limited, that i don't have the leisure to sit around my condo all night making calls to friends. i'm usually running to the gym, grocery store, stuck at work, etc; so i talk on the phone while driving & like matt, i probably won't cut it out completely.

Michael / May 12, 2005 11:51 AM

It's a good law. People (myself included) turn into retards when driving and gabbing on the cell phone at the same time.

Alice / May 12, 2005 11:57 AM

As a pedestrian who has at least two scary close calls with cellphone using drivers too busy gabbing to pay attention to little things like stop signs, I applaud any attempt at punishment.

steven / May 12, 2005 11:58 AM

Wackpuma -

I agree, no problem with driving with one hand, I do it all the time as well. When I mentioned that, I had in mind those particular folks who try to park their cars, beat red lights, swerve in and out of traffic, all with one hand while on the phone. The people I've seen just can't pull it off. It's easy driving with one hand, but when you're gabbing with someone on the phone at the same time, sometimes the coordination goes right out the window.

Dunl / May 12, 2005 12:04 PM

Hopefully it will cut down on the number of "left-on-red" maneuvers around town (which I'm currently witnessing on the part of phone-talking drivers on a near-daily basis downtown).

Erica / May 12, 2005 12:09 PM

The rage you feels when someone cuts you off, pulls out in front of you or nearly hits you while you're walking or driving seems to escalate when said a**hole driver is seemingly occupied by a phone. That said, what about smoking, playing/singing to loud music, chatting with passengers or tending to a pet in the car? Or dealing with babies/children? Or even hands-free devices? Where does it end? I'm a little torn.

Naz / May 12, 2005 12:17 PM

About damn time. As someone who berates stupid drivers who almost kill me on my bike everyday, it's a small dent in drivers being better drivers. The stupidity of drivers when they're on their cell phones amazes me - drifting towards the middle, driving really slow, not looking when turning, the list goes on.

Steve / May 12, 2005 12:18 PM

I'm down with the ban -- but that may just be because my new cell has a built-in speakerphone.

All of the things Erica mentions are also problematic, but they're also issues that we've been dealing with from the dawn of the automotive age. (Recall that Holden Caulfield's mother fretted about playing the radio while the automobile was moving.) Phone usage, especially on a wide scale, is a far more recent phenomenon, and requires separate consideration.

Steve / May 12, 2005 12:19 PM

btw, my moms always told me it was illegal to drive with the dog in my lap. anyone know if there's truth to that? is librarian alice aboot?

Ericka / May 12, 2005 12:29 PM

The ban doesn't bother me...I'm not saying that I'm not guilty of answering the phone while driving but if people are going to get busted for this, I'd like to see other ordinances enforced! The one that gets me the most is: I constantly see small children riding in the front seat on someone's lap w/ no seatbelt in sight!

Michael / May 12, 2005 12:29 PM

Steve -

I think it depends on whether or not you're wearing pants at the time.

Steve / May 12, 2005 12:31 PM

Michael -- Hiyoooooooooo! You are correct, oh great one!

Must every thread devolve into the great pants/no pants debate? I feel like I'm on Free Republic or something.

Michael / May 12, 2005 12:33 PM

Wait... what's a cell phone?

Thurston / May 12, 2005 12:43 PM

I agree with Naz. I have narrowly averted many a bike and pedestrian accident involving an oblivious driver immersed in a cell phone conversation. To be sure, there are a number of driving distractions outside of cell phone use, but people seem to be prone to zoning out whilst chatting on the phone. We all lead busy lives, but I find the assertion dubious at best that there is simply no other time to make calls except for when driving. That said, I doubt the law will be enforced with any tenacity, and defensive driving, biking & pedestrianism will remain as necesary as ever.

Tom / May 12, 2005 12:47 PM

I am in favor of this ordinance. It's a step in the right direction. Even though it is likely to be flouted and spottily enforced, it should give people a reason to pause before they make another I'm-just-calling-to-let-you-know-I'll-be-home-in-two-minutes phone call.

Benjy / May 12, 2005 1:00 PM

Caused by a driver on a cell phone. Guess my view on the issue...

amyc / May 12, 2005 1:10 PM

Is it still illegal to punch people in the head when they blab on their phones at the movies, during meetings, on crowded buses, etc? Because I would really like that to be legal.

melanie / May 12, 2005 1:14 PM

They pretty strictly adhere to the rule in NYC -- last time I was there, I had no idea about the ban, and I was driving through a toll booth talking on my cell phone. The booth operator flagged down a police officer who asked if I knew about the rule -- and that he had the ability to fine me such-and-such amount of money. I apologized and said I didn't know... that I was just visiting the city (hence the "foreign" plates). He let me go, but it totally freaked me out. I'm sure that they'll work hard to make sure that this rule is enforced (all you skeptical people talking about how busy the Chicago PD is).

You KNOW they're going to make a KILLING on this new rule! More money, more money, more money, more money............... They'll milk it for all it's worth -- like writing a ticket at 6:58 for no turn on red 7am-7pm. They're not THAT busy.

roderick / May 12, 2005 1:14 PM

My phone is has a "driving mode" that is truly hands-free and is quite useful. I think more phones need this, with an easy way to implement.

I agree though - it's not about how many hands it takes to use a phone, it is attention that a driver has to give to the phone that makes them drive so badly. Just pay attention people!

Stephen / May 12, 2005 1:18 PM

For those who say, "It won't stop me from using my cell phone while driving" (Matt) - this ordinance is not intended to stop you from using your cell phone. It's intended to help you pay better attention to the road while on your cell phone by using a hands-free device.

Or is using a hands-free device so annoying to you that it effectively becomes a total ban on talking on your cell phone?

The hands-free kit my cell phone manufacturer provided with the phone sucks. It causes more distraction, honestly, than just picking up my phone does. So I'll have to invest in some hands-free kit that actually works the way it is supposed to work. My drive is the only time of my day I have to talk on the phone.

And finally, I always laugh when I see people talking in the car with their hands-free lapel-clipped microphones, but instead of using it the way it was intended, they hold the mic up to their mouth while they talk. Not very "hands-free," is it?

paul / May 12, 2005 1:52 PM

If they heavily enforce this, the city will have enough to pay for solid gold CTA trains. If I ballpark a count of drivers I see on the phone, I'd estimate 1 out of 4.

Now if we could ticket obnoxiously loud phone users on the train...

Eamon / May 12, 2005 2:10 PM

HOLY COW do people who drive with pets in their laps bug the crap out of me. That's a wild animal, people! What if something spooks it and it jumps on to the dash? Gets freaked out and poops on you? Hell, just starts yapping three inches from your ear! It's like a fricking timebomb sitting right there on your crotch, waiting to turn your two-ton vehicle into an unguided missile. It's ridiculous.

Tim / May 12, 2005 2:23 PM

Steve - yes, it is against the law to drive with a librarian in your lap while you are on the phone.

Lee / May 12, 2005 2:35 PM

Using a cell phone while driving - at all - is illegal in many european countries. Probably becuase it's freaking dangerous. It makes people as reckless and inattentive as drinking or sleep deprivation, and don't try to tell me otherwise. Similar to Benjy, I was involved in a car accident because of another person on the phone. Except for me, he clipped the front of my car while cutting in front of me on the expressway. I swerved from the impact and it flipped my car since I was going so fast.
Yes, perhaps YOU would never do such a terrible, irresponsible thing while driving. But, the fact is, it's dangerous. Period.

Emerson Dameron / May 12, 2005 3:28 PM

I don't have a cellphone or an auto, so I haven't given it much thought. I don't think it'll be well enforced, or noticably decrease the amount of homicidal/suicidal/idiotic driving in Chicago. Good manners can't be legislated, and people treat each other quite differently through a layer of glass.

Mo / May 12, 2005 3:29 PM

It's not the hand-free/hands-not-free issue. It's the "I'm a stark raving moron when I'm on the phone" issue. I rarely talk on the phone while driving, and when I see another driver do something stupid, THEN see that they're gabbing into a phone, hands-free or not, it makes me want to throw a milkshake at their windshield. Lots of people are dumb enough without the added distraction of a phone.

That being said, I can't say that I really agree with this ban. If the city can ban HOLDING a cell phone, then they can ban me from eating an enormous hotdog while driving, because said hotdog may obscure my vision of the road. And it is my god-given right to eat an enormous hotdog whenever I please. But I am able to drive prefectly well eating a hotdog. What needs to happen is for cops to crack down on just plain shitty driving, no matter what the cause. If a car nearly sideswipes a biker, they should get a ticket (as long as the biker was obeying road rules!!! but that's another issue all together.) If a car starts swaying into another lane, ticket. But just like the cell phone ban, this too is a tricky issue when it comes to enforcement, because it either won't be, or cops will have free reign to ticket for anything and everything. Just be careful, people!

Leelah / May 12, 2005 3:46 PM

I'm way better with using my cell phone while driving than with applying lipstick...

kerry / May 12, 2005 3:57 PM

For years I had a crappy old motorola piper rigged for hands-free in the car. It had a little stand, a little speaker, a little external antenna on the windshield, and a microphone by the rear view mirror. I never took the phone out of the setup, and rarely used it to make calls, just receive them. I had inherited it and the car from my mother. When some jerk broke my car window and stole that phone a few years ago I got a "real" cell phone, and can't stand using it when I drive. I don't drive often, so it's not a big deal, and I don't make a whole lot of calls from the car. When I do make calls, it's usually from a parking space. This law just convinces me to finally get a hands free kit for the new phone.

Perch / May 12, 2005 5:21 PM

I'm all for the new ordinance so long as it works.

I do however like listening to other people's cell phone conversations while riding the L. It's a great diversion of attention that makes L rides go by so much faster and definitely boosts self-esteem given the pathetic conversations you inevitably overhear.

That said, I rarely use my cell phone in public places unless I'm outside.

Matt / May 12, 2005 8:45 PM

I don't need an ordinance to protect me from myself. I agree there are a lot of idiots out there but ticketing is about revenue...just like Red Light Cameras. I spent $60 to protect my license plates from being able to be photographed, I have invested $300 in a radar dectetor and now I'll have to keep a better eye out while driving.

The bottom line is accidents happen. You can't legislate safety. I predict no one will notice a change in roads being any safer...

JoJo / May 12, 2005 11:47 PM

Mission accomplished!

Tomorrow I begin lobbying to make everyone wear crash helmets while driving. If it saves just *one* life, it is worth it.

Mister C / May 13, 2005 2:04 AM

Ok, I'm feeling a little curmudgeonly, so I'll jump in on this one.

Bottom Line: Check the statistics on accidents and cell phone use if you don't think that talking on a cell phone and driving is dangerous.

Of course, it's always those "other people" who can't drive and talk on a cell phone at the same time, whereas you can do it with ease (and all those close calls are always the fault of the other driver or the pedestrian or the bicyclist). Just like all those "other people" don't know how to drive drunk, whereas you always make it home safe, so you must be doing it right.

Sure, other driving distractions are dangerous too: screwing with the stereo (damn that graphic equalizer!), eating a chili dog, smacking your children in the back seat, doing a bong hit etc. etc.-- but nothing is as easily and universally identifiable as hazardous and as unnecessary* as cell phone use.

As far as idiots who blab on cell phones on the EL (this harkens back to the last topic), lately I've been feeling this overwhelming urge to start loudly barking like a dog at the offender until they cease their call. It's a sort of Dadaistic protest that I think could be quite effective. Perhaps if everyone on the train started barking or sarcastically and intrusively commenting on the conversation ("Well then dump the bastard, girl!"-- or "Hey! That's my favorite reality show too! Wanna join my chat room?") we could put a stop to that noxious social phenomenon.

*Yes, UNNECESSARY! Before the invention of cell phones, "OH so important and busy" people somehow managed to get by without being in constant contact with their work or their friends, so don't try to talk that shite.

PS- "Friends don't let friends drive while diddling their dogs."

payton / May 13, 2005 3:01 AM

even if the law isn't enforced, it gives me the moral upper hand. whenever I get within inches of being bloodied, mauled, assaulted (etc.)* by a phone-wielding driver, they don't just not care--they act as if they just can't be bothered with something as trivial and stupid as my life. after all, they're on an important call! but now, I can pull out my own phone and call the cops on their asses. and they just might start to care.

and yes, government can legislate safety. the goal is NOT to protect bad drivers from themselves: it's to protect the public (which OWNS the roads) from bad drivers. and I don't care if "you're good at driving and talking." all it takes is one slip, one moment when something crosses your blind spot--and suddenly someone, someone with hopes and fears and family and friends, is dead. maybe even you.

if you absolutely HAVE to talk while traveling, why can't you travel via a mode that doesn't involve you wielding a deadly weapon in a crowd?* like, oh, take the bus. or walk.

as Umberto Eco once pointed out, truly important people don't use mobile phones; they have personal assistants, silly. the true mark of being important is not to be able to be reached anytime, it's being able to be out of reach whenever you like.

* yes, graphic language. but our society has a way of trivializing violence, as long as it's perpetuated by cars. I've known and loved enough people who've died (screaming with pain) under car wheels to understand, and I hope that the heavens have the mercy to spare you "good drivers" that same pain.

drdick / May 13, 2005 8:52 AM

I was wondering if it was ok for me to sing while driving, talk to passengers, itch my nose, eat my Demon Dogs or stare at the gluttony of billboards on the road side and on CTA buses! Hey - why don't we ban day dreaming while driving. In more positive news - maybe - BLock 37 is back in the works.

Pete / May 13, 2005 9:23 AM

Sounds great to me. Can we get the ban extended to Metra riders, too?

Mister C / May 13, 2005 11:21 AM

Absolutely Pete! Once they're finished stamping out the menace of CTA ridership, the legislature will be enacting a total ban on Metra riders as well.

Tim / May 13, 2005 11:46 AM

One nice thing about public cell usage, it is a good way to discriminate between people who might be cool and people who are idiots. The selfish, public use of your cell is a way for me to understand we won't be spending any time together in the future. ever. Also, when you see couples sitting together in a restaurant or cafe, and one of them is on the cell and the other is just sitting there, who sucks more?

Lady / May 13, 2005 11:50 AM

Just about every time I've almost been wiped out by a moving vehicle while riding my bike, that driver has been on the phone. Nothing wrong with cell phones, but damned if they don't make for a distracted driver.

Cinnamon / May 13, 2005 12:22 PM

One of the small joyous but vindictive moments I've seen:

A bike messenger was in the middle lane heading east on Lake St. just east of State St. A driver merges into his lane without even bothering to look and he swerves to avoid getting hit and then swerves to avoid running into another car before smoothly finding his way back over to the careless driver, reaching into the open window, grabbing the cell phone and then tossing it in front of the car so the careless driver runs over their own cell phone. The bike messenger then took a sharp left and got away as several pedestrians just stood there shocked and laughing.

Mike / May 13, 2005 12:54 PM

I am willing to bet that there is a large percentage of people who walk around talking on their cell phone but no one is on the other end. They want to look cool and important. This is especially the case at Bar Louie in Wrigleyville or anywhere else Chads tend to congregate.

Erica / May 13, 2005 2:52 PM

I have "fake talked" on my phone walking home from the train on late winter nights in my old shady neighborhood. The thinking was that I was less approachable to a mugger or whatever if I appear to be on the phone (because if the person on the other end happened to hear me struggle or something, they could really do much to help me at that point, right?). Then I realized criminals don't generally hang out when it's freezing out, so maybe it was a pointless exercise.

Still, being on the phone -- w/or w/out somoene at the other end, makes you look busy and unapproachable, which is important if you're regularly faced with panhandler types or shady people. It's a security thing.

flobear / May 16, 2005 8:27 AM

I am very happy with the ban. You can still talk on the phone (a lot of you seem to be thinking otherwise) you just use a headset. When I lived in NY I saw a huge improvement with drivers, and they needed the help out there.

I'm really happy, I can't explain how it is that people pay more attention when they have a headset it, but they do!

Kevin / May 17, 2005 9:53 AM

Good point Tim. It never used to be acceptable to take a call in the middle of a real live, flesh and blood conversation. It's just outright fucking rude but seems to be standard operating procedure these days with many cell-phone dickheads. I just get up and leave when my friends do it and they get the point.

Brad / April 12, 2007 5:05 PM

Matt: Many laws arent there to protect you from yourself so much as they are there to protect others from you. I couldnt care less if YOU experience a fatal crash due to being distracted by using your cellphone - unless you maim or kill someone else in the process. For everyone elses' sake, use a headset, or hang up.

chris roberts / June 8, 2008 7:56 PM

Fine I'll pay whatever ticket these "people" want for money...but i have to take off of work and go to court for this when someone with an unleashed pit bull can just pay a fine and not have to go to court. Wake up people!!!!!!!!Chicago Police are whores!!!

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