Tag Archives: cell phones

How about cell phone ban enforcement?

My wife and I live in a house that is about 50 feet past a sign that marks the end of a “school zone” in Princeton, Texas.

I am mentioning that because of something I witness repeatedly: the sight of drivers using hand-held devices while they pass through a zone where such activity is illegal.

Indeed, using hand-held devices while driving a motor vehicle is against state law. The Texas Legislature made it so in 2019 and Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law. It was a long slog to get it enacted. Then-Gov. Rick Perry vetoed an earlier bill on grounds that it infringed on driver’s “personal liberty.” Sheesh.

My point is that law enforcement officers surely have a headache trying to enforce this law. It’s one thing, I suppose, to pull someone over on a suspicion of illegal activity. Police officers I know have told me over many years they can act only when they witness a crime being committed.

So, does a police officer pull someone over when they witness that motorist yapping on a cell phone that he or she is holding up to his or her ear? I would hope that would be the case.

My witnessing of such law-breakers driving through my neighborhood, though, suggest to me that enforcement of this law isn’t a sufficient deterrent against motorists from fumbling with a cell phone while driving a two-ton motor vehicle … in a school zone!


Happy Trails, Part 186: Not missing the land line

When you retire from the working world, I have found that you embark on a series of new customs. You at times forsake the old way for the new way and then hope the new way feels as comfortable as what you had all those years ago.

So it has been with my phone service.

My wife and I disconnected our land line several months before we moved from Amarillo to the Metroplex. We moved into our fifth wheel and lived in it while we prepared our house for sale.

We both had been tethered to the land line since we were children. My parents had no choice, naturally; neither did hers. We found ourselves with that kind of choice our parents never had.

So we disconnected our land line. We rely exclusively these days on our cell phones.

Let me stipulate that I do not use my cell phone for many tasks other than speaking to people. I do take pictures with it. I use a number of apps on the device, such as the Google app that guides me to unfamiliar locations. There are some others as well.

What I find myself doing, though, is leaving my cell phone at home if I take off to run a local errand. I look at the device this way: If someone wants to talk to me, they can call my cell phone, leave a message and I’ll answer it when I return from my errand. Hey, it’s like the old days! Except that the phone isn’t hooked up to a wire coming out of the wall.

So I am able to pretend I have a land line when I don’t. It works out well for me. Even when I have the cell phone with me, I am able to say with a clear conscience that I do not miss the land line.

Adaptability is all it’s cracked up to be.

Cameras are … everywhere!

Walking through a teeming crowd of Christmas revelers this weekend, I was struck by the sight of the 21st century’s most ubiquitous device.

Cell phones, man! Everyone has one. And, yes, they all are equipped with picture-taking “apps” that turn these telecommunications devices into cameras.

It begs the obvious question, which you well might anticipate.

Why in the name of social media invasion do celebrities of any stripe — politics, entertainment, athletics, whatever — allow themselves to be photographed doing something they shouldn’t be doing?

Every person is a potential paparazzo. They see someone famous acting up — or acting out! — they point their phone/camera at them and snap pictures to be recorded for everyone to see. By “everyone,” I mean potentially every human being on Earth; at last count that number was well north of 7 billion.

Yet we keep hearing about individuals who get caught punching someone out, or acting inappropriately after consuming too many adult beverages.

I suppose this is my way of saying that if it’s understood by most of us that cell phone cameras are as plentiful as we know they are, then celebrities who get caught misbehaving deserve the recrimination that comes their way.

‘Right of privacy’ argument doesn’t work

I have made this point before, but it’s worth making again. A fellow who comments occasionally on this blog took note of how those who gripe about red-light cameras cite a phony infringement on their “right of privacy.”

He notes correctly that when motorists travel on public streets and are required to follow the law they surrender their “right of privacy.”

At issue is the future of red light cameras in cities across Texas. The Legislature is considering whether to pull back its authorization for cities to deploy the cameras to help deter motorists from running through red lights.

There is no such thing as a “right of privacy” when motorists put other motorists and pedestrians in peril when they break the law.

The cameras do have their critics. They say the timing of the light sequence from yellow to red can be unfair to motorists trying to sneak through under yellow.

Right of privacy, though, doesn’t cut it. I am reminded of the time then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry vetoed a bill that banned cell phone use while driving. He cited the legislation as an invasion of motorists’ right of privacy.

Gov. Perry’s thinking at the time was idiotic. The gripes now about red light cameras and the privacy issue are equally idiotic.

‘Lock him up, lock him up’?

What in the name of national security is going on here?

The New York Times reports that Donald John Trump is using an unsecured cell phone to talk about, oh, matters involving national security. And … the Chinese and the Russians are eavesdropping on him.

Wait just a doggone minute, will ya?

Weren’t the Republican mobs yelling “Lock her up!” when questions arose about Hillary Rodham Clinton using a personal e-mail server while she was secretary of state during the first term of the Obama administration? Didn’t the Republican nominee for president say that “if you’re listening,” the Russians should look for the missing e-mails?

Of course, the president challenges the NYT’s reporting on the story. He said in a tweet: The so-called experts on Trump over at the New York Times wrote a long and boring article on my cellphone usage that is so incorrect I do not have time here to correct it. I only use Government Phones, and have only one seldom used government cell phone. Story is soooo wrong!

I’ll take the president at his word that the Times is “soooo wrong” when the newspaper retracts or “clarifies” the story.

In the meantime, I’ll refrain from leading any “Lock him up” chant, given that I’ve been highly critical of the GOP mobs’ call to lock up Hillary Clinton without anything approaching due process.

Although this also must be said: Even though Hillary endured “due process” through endless congressional hearings on the e-mail matter, and was found to have committed no crimes, the “Lock her up!” bellowing has persisted.

We’re better than that now, though. Aren’t we?

Phone books? Pfftt! Who needs ’em?

You’re going to accuse me of being way too slow on the uptake.

I don’t care. I am going to make this declaration anyway. You are welcome to disparage me if you so desire. I’m tough. I can take it.

I have finally come to grips with the fact that I no longer need a telephone directory to find a phone number I need to call.

Yep. Just like the rest of you I am packing my “directory” on my hip. It’s clipped to my belt in the same device I use to scroll the wire services, check my daily page-view stats on High Plains Blogger and, oh, make a phone call when I need to talk to someone.

That ol’ smart phone serves the same purpose the phone book used to serve. I just Google the subject, the nature of the business and I can find it quickly. I hit the “call” button on my screen and, well, there you go.

OK, you can stop laughing at me.

It wasn’t all that long ago that I declared victory in my campaign to be the last man on Earth to own a cellular telephone. It was my mission. I was dedicated to seeing it through.

Finally, I just thought I’d declare victory. I made it! Then I got a flip-phone that worked for good while. I graduated to something a bit more, um, sophisticated. Then I upgraded to the phone I have now.

It’s a slick device.

One of the many discoveries I made about it was the using it to locate a phone number is far less cumbersome, frustrating and annoying than using a printed phone book.

You know why, but I’ll explain it briefly anyhow.

In the not-too-distant old days, I would find that the person whose number I was seeking in the phone book wasn’t listed; he or she had cut off the land line and the cell number wasn’t in the book. If I needed to look in the Yellow Pages for a business phone number, I often would get frustrated slogging through the various topics trying to find the business.

My wife and I severed our land line when we moved into our RV in October 2017 while we prepared to sell our Amarillo house. That event proved to be far less traumatic than I had anticipated.

I wrote about this notion three years ago:

Get rid of the land line? Not just yet

As my comfort level with my smart phone has grown, I have discovered — finally! — that phone books no longer serve a useful purpose.

Are you proud of me?

Trying to understand non-helmet law in Texas

INTERSTATE 35 NORTH OF AUSTIN, Texas — Normally, the sight of four women on motorcycles speeding past us in heavy traffic wouldn’t be worth a comment on this blog.

But I noticed something about these individuals when they zoomed on past: All of them were wearing helmets.

That elicited a comment to my wife and we drove along in our Prius. “You know, it seems that women motorcyclists appear to be far more likely to wear those helmets than men,” I said. It didn’t draw much of a response from my wife.

Hey, maybe it isn’t worth much of any comment.

However, it does bring to mind a couple of thoughts I want to share.

One is that women motorcyclists — and this is just an anecdotal observation on my part — are much smarter than men when it comes to motor vehicle safety. I’ll have to check some traffic studies to validate that observation. Or, perhaps I’ll just let it stand on its own.

The second thought is that I don’t know why the Texas Legislature decided in 1995 to repeal the motorcycle helmet requirement in the first place.

Legislators did that also while increasing the speed limit on Texas highways from 55 to 70 mph, a move made possible when Congress that year removed the federal mandate, giving states the option of setting their own speed limits. Texas legislators and the governor at the time, George W. Bush, jumped all over it.

I’ve seen the studies about how helmets save lives. They help prevent traumatic head wounds. Yet the state said motorcyclists 21 years of age and older need not wear them. The state would require a $10,000 insurance policy, instead. Do you know how quickly a serious injury would gobble up that amount of money? Just … like … that!

The state requires everyone in automobiles to wear seat restraints. It tells us to fasten our young children into approved safety-seat. Just this past year, the Legislature banned the use of hand held telephones and texting devices while operating a motor vehicle.

Good for them. On all counts.

Motorcyclists, though, are given the freedom to expose themselves to grievous injury or death.

I don’t get it. Nor will I ever understand that bit of so-called “logic.”

Cell phones in prison? Really?

LAKE ARROWHEAD STATE PARK, Texas — I know I am missing something, but I have to offer this rant nevertheless.

My wife and I are parked overnight in this state park. While relaxing in our RV, I heard a news report about a prison riot in South Carolina. Seven inmates died in the stab fest.

Officials blame “illegal cell phones” for the riot that became a battle over territory inside the maximum-security lockup.

Illegal cell phones? What does that mean? Oh, I guess it means the inmates acquired them through mail that had been sent to them from The Outside.

Let me think about this. If I were King of the World, here’s what I would do:

I would confiscate every piece of electronic equipment inside the prison.

I would start by ordering prison security officers to enter every cell in the lockup, strip-search every inmate, tear their bedding apart if need be and look for these cell phones.

Then I would set up a sort of “extreme screening” of every piece of mail that comes into the prison. Every package would get opened and examined for contraband. Cell phones constitute “contraband.”

These individuals broke serious state laws in South Carolina. They sacrificed most of their rights. Sure, they deserve some rights as citizens. They do not deserve to be subjected to “cruel and unusual punishment.” The deserve to live in quarters that allow them a modicum of space; Texas prisons were put under a federal court control over that issue, if you’ll recall.

Living in a cell-phone-free zone, though, doesn’t qualify as “cruel” or “unusual” in this context.

There you have it. Rant is over.

New state anti-texting law: no apparent deterrent

A friend posed a question on social media that needs an answer and a brief rant from yours truly. She asked whether anyone else “looks in their rear view mirror” when they are stopped to see if the person behind them is texting while driving a motor vehicle.

I answered “yes,” although I should have been a good bit more emphatic about it.

Texas legislators in 2017 finally approved a statewide ban on the use of hand held communications devices while driving motor vehicles. Amarillo already had an ordinance on the books, along with several other cities throughout the state.

To their credit, our local lawmakers backed the ban. It went to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk and he signed it, reversing the position taken by his immediate predecessor, Rick Perry, who vetoed a nearly identical bill in 2011; Gov. Perry offered one of the most idiotic reasons ever recorded for his veto, calling it a form of “government intrusion.”

So, then, are laws against speeding and drunk driving … if you follow Perry’s nonsensical “rationale.” Texting while driving is every bit as dangerous as swilling alcohol or speeding.

My rant follows this track. Since the enactment of the law, I do not sense a serious decline in the incidents of texting while driving. I see motorists constantly doing that very form of dual-tasking.

I curse them, often out loud and in a bellicose voice.

I haven’t traveled out of state in a while, so I cannot confirm this, but the last time my wife and I went beyond the state line I didn’t see any signage on the return trip advising motorists that texting while driving — or using hand held cell phones while driving — was against state law.

Not that such a warning necessarily will deter motorists from breaking the law, but … you get my drift.

There. Rant over.

I’ll now refer to a bumper sticker that once adorned a car we used to own — but which was destroyed in 2012 by a driver who rear-ended my wife while she well might have been texting while driving. The cops never revealed it to us.

Get off the phone and drive!

Now, let’s target ‘distracted walking’

It is generally accepted that “texting while driving” is dangerous and is an inherently stupid activity. The reasons are obvious and no explanation is needed from me.

I’ve loathed the sight of drivers conversing on their cell phones, let alone operating texting devices while driving a 4,000-pound missile in heavy traffic.

There. We’ve re-established that, yes?

How about texting while walking?

You’ve seen it, too, I’m sure. People walking through shopping malls while distracted. Their eyes are fixed on that device in their hand. They are sending messages via those devices. They run into other mall shoppers. They slam into doors. They knock displays over at kiosks.

Oh, they just giggle and pick up after themselves. It’s all good.

Actually, it isn’t.

Some communities now are levying fines for those who are caught “texting while walking” across the street. The fines aren’t steep, but they are punishing those who commit these idiotic acts.

I know that “texting while walking” isn’t as egregious as when the activity involves driving a motor vehicle. The only person endangered is the person who refuses to look where he or she is going.

I am not going to hold my breath waiting for Texas communities to follow the lead of other American cities and towns. It took several sessions of the Texas Legislature to enact a statewide ban on texting while driving; the 2017 Legislature finally acted and Gov. Greg Abbott signed it into law. Good for lawmakers and good for the governor.

However, if tragedy should strike and someone is seriously hurt — or worse — because he or she is texting while walking through traffic … then we’re talking about a potential game-changer.