Close call with students prompts cellphone debate

By: 
David Keyes
Laurel Outlook publisher

It is an interesting debate that goes back to personal responsibility.
• Should hunters wear orange?
• Should people in vehicles wear seatbelts?
• Should motorcyclists wear helmets?
Depending on where you land on these questions probably depends on what you believe is responsible behavior, the governments’ role in our lives and even Darwin’s Law.
The reason the debate about personal responsibility bubbled up was because of a white Jeep near Laurel High School.
I was driving on First Avenue Tuesday afternoon around 3:30 to shuffle my daughter home between play practice and a choir concert. As I approached the school I noticed two young ladies waiting on the sidewalk to cross the street to Ricci’s.
As I always do, I stopped and waved at the girls to let them know that I saw them and that I was stopped. They stepped onto the road and waved back at me. About that same time, a white Jeep came up behind me at a fairly fast clip, swerved to the right of me and kept driving right through the crosswalk narrowly missing the students.
The students looked at me and shrugged and made it across the rest of the road. They honestly didn’t know how close they were to disaster.
Neither, apparently, did the driver of the Jeep who was probably still talking on a cellphone after this all occurred.
I didn’t have time to get the license plate of the Jeep and there were too many people and cars in the way for me to track the vehicle down after this happened.
The incident got me to thinking. Is there a law against distracted driving in Laurel?
I assume there is a law to discourage plowing through school crosswalks and scattering children but there is no law about drivers texting or using cellphones here.
Should there be?
Billings bans cellphone use and texting in the city limits. The same goes for Butte, Great Falls and several Montana counties. Missoula is the only city that not only bans cellphone use and texting in vehicles but also includes cyclists as well.
More than a few people will tell you that you can’t legislate common sense and others will say law enforcement is busy enough with existing rules that adding checking on cellphone and texting lawbreakers to the list.
Maybe the close call I witnessed with the Jeep on Tuesday was an anomaly or maybe if the person driving the Jeep would have been stopped several days earlier and given a ticket he or she might not have been distracted on Tuesday.
Tough call. What do you think?

David Keyes is publisher of the Laurel Outlook.

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