Cell Phones and Driving – Is what is good for the gander, good for the goose as well??

Posted By: Tony Baratta | April 3rd, 2014

Have you ever felt that a rule should not apply to you but it’s okay if it is applied to others?   In feeling this way, someone may remind you of the old saying, “what is good for the goose is good for the gander.”  This saying is usually meant to convey that if a particular rule is good for one person it is good for all persons.  I was thinking about this recently in the context of distracted driving. 

I recently spoke to high school students at Episcopal High School about the dangers of distracted driving.  I discussed a well known study, “A Comparison of the Cell Phone Driver and the Drunk Driver”,that shows drivers distracted by cell phone use perform no better than drivers mildly impaired after consuming alcohol (0.08 percent blood alcohol content).  I also discussed the distance a vehicle could travel in the few seconds the driver  looks away from the road  to read a text or to dial a phone number.

One of the Episcopal students had no problem with a video of a commercial bus driver looking down and writing with pen and paper while driving the bus.  She reasoned that the driver was an expert  and his actions must be safe for him but not necessarily for others.  I asked that student to participate in a game.  I asked her to write on a blackboard numbers from 100 backwards (100, 99, 98…) in 20 seconds.  She got to the number 80.  I then asked a teacher to ask her personal questions to which she had to respond while writing backwards from 100 for the same 20 seconds.  She was able to get to only 89.  Even though she wasn’t taking her eyes off the blackboard (as you would be taking your eyes off the road while looking at a cell phone) her performance was remarkably affected.

It is said that we judge ourselves by our own intentions but judge others by their actions.   We often excuse our own misdeeds by explaining that we did not mean to cause harm.  

But, it struck me.  Did I really think these dangers were applicable to me, a driver with 34 years experience?  Was this a case of “do as I say and not as I do”?  Did I believe that my own cell phone usage is safe, while the cell phone use of others is dangerous?  Are you like me?

When I use my cell phone while driving I am making a choice.  I am responsible for the choices I make.  And, I am ultimately responsible for the consequences of those choices.  Breaking my bad habit is not going to be easy.  But I have one son who is 19 and driving and another soon to be 16.  Perhaps avoiding the label of hypocrite should be enough to force the change.  

About the Author

Anthony J. Baratta (Tony) is a trial attorney. He has tried more than 50 cases to Juries in State and Federal Courts and has litigated thousands of personal injury and medical malpractice cases in his 30-year career. Tony is the founding partner of Baratta, Russell, & Baratta and an active board member of the Pennsylvania Brain Injury Association (BPIA). Tony is also on the board for the Philadelphia VIP and performs pro bono work for the Laurel House, a non-profit for victims of domestic abuse. In addition, Tony is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum for trial attorneys, voted one of Philadelphia’s Super Lawyers for the past 14 years, and a 2018 recipient of the First Judicial District Pro Bono Award for the Civil Trial Division.

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