Off the Air

Can you keep your mind on the road while you talk?

Comments (25)

(25) Tehila Leah, January 25, 2009 8:17 AM

It's about time this was addressed. We need to return some sanity to our streets. Thank you.

(24) Eric, January 22, 2009 6:56 PM


Whatever happened to the quiet moments? We are expected to always answer the phone nowadays. Better, I would think, to be lost in thought behind the wheel, than lost in yapping. Though just as perilous...?

(23) lisa, January 21, 2009 10:11 PM


You are so right!!!! No, I won't like it....but I don't like paying taxes either!!! If you really need to talk...pull over!!! Our parents didn't have cell phones....& guess what...they all survived....& while in the car they probably spoke to us.....what a concept!!! I love speaking to my kids in the car..they can't go anywhere!! I cherish that time with my kids in this crazy , too fast paced world we live in!!! All these gadgets.....they are suppose to save us time....hmmm...I don't seem to have a moment to you???? Thank you Rabbi for always bringing up topics that we can think about!!!!! Thinking...I should have some time for that!!!!

(22) yossi stern, January 21, 2009 5:58 PM

driving while talking

Yaacov, you know that Helmut could drive while doing work on a laptop. He would put on his coat and gloves and the bus could drive itself. On serious note if people recall Yosef told his brothers not to discuss the sale or Halacha on their way back to Canaan.You would think that people would get the message besides being inconsideratae.

(21) Linda Martin, January 21, 2009 11:32 AM

Messages come at the right time

In the UK one may not use a hand held phone when driving ... but I keep mine handy and switched on for emergencies - such as reporting accidents or incidents and so I can be contacted. Funny thing is, that during 1,000 miles of driving around Scotland last week my phone rang only three times ... firstly, 40 miles north of home, just before driving off onto the Motorway, as I sat consulting my map, a call came from a friend suffering deep clinical depression - and I was able to turn right around and go in the opposite direction to offer support and help, my trip could wait a day for a Mitzvah. The next day it rang as I was just approaching a pull-in at my destination, and subsequently it rang as I was stopped for five minutes with the engine off on account of road-works (neither caller had any idea where I was). How did they know it was safe THEN to phone me ... out of the 20 hours driving when it wasn't? Coincidence, maybe? But a coincidence worth a b'rache!

(20) David, January 20, 2009 9:42 PM

Not a Right

There is no constitutioonal right to a drivers license. It is a privilege granted by the various states and territories. As such, each state may pass laws that it deems necessary to enjoy the privilege, and impose fines for those who violate those laws. If it is true that cell phone use while driving is equivalent to driving impared by alcohol or drugs, then the penalties be similar and the prohibitions the same.

(19) Gillian, January 20, 2009 6:49 PM

Driving without a phone

In the UK it is illegal to drive whilst using a mobile phone. You receive an on the spot fine & 3 points on your licence (8 points & you lose it). Statistics show that there is a loss of concentration & you are far more likely to have an accident. Some people are too busy looking at their phone texting or reading one and have an accident. Now, I feel sorry for the people hurt or killed & the rescue workers who have to help them. Personally, I'd like to see them pay towards the cost of their own imbecility!! As for phones themselves, very invasive. There's always a phone ringing or someone with it stuck to their ear while I'm wandering around a supermarket or anywhere else. The ring tones are annoying & the worst bit is when they are being served after a long queue & then chat to whoever and make everyone else wait while they are doing it. They can be useful in an emergency but I sometimes wonder if it is worth it.

(18) T. Seligman, January 20, 2009 3:33 PM


I couldn't agree more. Anything that distracts a driver from paying attention to the road is potentially lethal. And THAT's scary!

(17) Elonna, January 20, 2009 10:50 AM


I'm from NY, where it's illegal to speak on a cell phone and drive. However, I see people doing it all the time anyway. Even a police officer, yacking away on his cell phone while driving his police car!!! There will always be people who ignore the law, but I do agree with banning cell phones in cars.

(16) judy, January 20, 2009 10:45 AM

The time has come!

I drive with my cell phone in my purse on the floor behind my seat.It's hard enough to drive safely and be aware of other drivers, much less answer the phone. My phone rang while I was driving home from work (less than 10 minutes total drive time). It was my husband trying to find the Scotch tape. Was that worth risking my life?

(15) GK, January 20, 2009 9:31 AM

driving while distracted

I agree with you regarding the use of cell phones, as my car has been almost struck by people on cell phones. I disagree with you regarding driving while being distracted by children in the back seat. My back was permanently injured by a mother who was so busy with the children in the back seat that she ran a red light and struck my car. If not for my driving skills, the grace of G-d, and the fact that my car handled like a sports car, I would have struck her car and been killed. I have seen people eating, drinking, putting on make-up, and reading while driving. All are reckless behaviors that endangers their lives and the lives of those around them.

(14) Anonymous, January 20, 2009 8:59 AM

how about on pubic transportation

The advent of cell phones has totally diminished the sense of respect for other people's "space" - - I find the insensitivity of making other's listen to your personal conversations whether they want to or not so rampant that people no longer even give it a thought. And for some reasons, telephone conversations are louder than when you talk to the person next to you. I find it to be polluting our private space.

(13) Anonymous, January 20, 2009 8:14 AM

Ban doesn't teach anything

I've been in a car more than once and watched as someone ran a red light. None of them were on cell phones, they were talking to me and in a couple of cases they were simply emotional. We can't find a feasible way to ban being "emotionally overwhelmed" while driving, so we don't. Because it wasn't destined that we be smashed at the intersection each time, we weren't. We could keep on restricting our freedoms endlessly, hoping for more security, more assurance, more guarantees for life, and we could continue to erode our ability as a collective to rouse our sense of responsibility. And yes, we have roused this to some degree by the daily discussions on this topic (I have many friends who don't talk on the cell phone, as either driver or as caller unless absolutely necessary if she/he is driving or has called someone driving). In the case of driving while intoxicated, there is never a necessity for that, in the case of cell phone use, there often is a huge advantage. The main point here, though, is this: it's easy to say "Ban It" but it's more worthwhile to take an activity that many people do responsibly and that is useful and keep it, using your energy to instill responsibility in users. It's good for the soul of the collective to find reasons to do this. Accidents happen, people are mortal. We don't have to be careless with this fact, and we don't have to continue to suffocate humans with our constant out-of-balance restrictions. That's where I draw the line. And I have thought about it, for about 10 years--pretty regularly in order to review my perspective. I've heard your reasoning before and in the deepest part of my soul, I understand this is one of those areas in which we are testing our ability to walk that delicate line between protection and suffocation.

(12) Gregory Sullivan, January 20, 2009 8:04 AM

You are so right !

Hello I just wanted to agree with you about what you had said in your excellent talk here. It is the mind ! Not the hands that are the problem . You can't talk on the phone and drive. People should try to ride a bike ,dial a number and then try to talk while riding . Its almost imposiable. Why do they think they can drive a car and do this ?? It always had made me wonder! Thanks for the great talk! I hope people will think a little more about others then themselves . Phone calls can wait. Gregory Sullivan

(11) G.M. Grena, January 19, 2009 11:42 PM

Another One Agrees!

Don't doubt yourself, Rabbi Salomon, it's annoying enough when somebody comes into a relatively quiet public place like a grocery store aisle or post office, & begins talking loudly to themself, but such behavior doesn't belong on the road when that person is essentially behind the wheel of a loaded weapon.

(10) g.s., January 18, 2009 11:47 PM

that phone call can wait

I agree, and it truly will be difficult to give up our cell phones in the car, we have all become so used to chatting to pass boring drive time. Something happened a couple of weeks ago that has really made me think I need to just wait til I get wherever I'm headed to make or answer a call. An E.R. doctor in our city was jogging along the roadside on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, and someone's cell phone rang while he was driving on that road. When he reached down to pick it up, he veered over to the side of the road and hit the doctor, who was then taken to his own E.R. where he died of his injuries. I can't help but think that two lives were stopped that day, the doctor's and the man who hit him - he can not help but be overcome with grief and guilt and surely his life will never be the same. If he hadn't tried to answer his phone, the doctor might be back in his E. R. saving lives.

(9) Charles Short, January 18, 2009 6:37 PM

We need to stop driving cars.

There is no reason why automobile transportation cannot be automated. It will be expensive, require interconnected transmitters in every car and on about every meter of highway. But the pay off will be huge. There will be almost ZERO dead time. Both accidents and commuting "productive down time" will virtually dissapear. What do I mean by automated? I mean that the woman's voice who tells you to "turn left here." "turn right here," will now do the stopping and turning for you. The passenger space will be simply a limousine. This is the millenial job for the automakers. The technology is already here. It just needs to be done.

(8) Anonymous, January 18, 2009 3:19 PM

I was in an accident where taxi driver was talking on hands free phone.

Thank You Rabbi Salomon. I personally experienced an open miracle while riding in a taxi in Jerusalem the driver was talking to his girlfriend on a mouthpiece connected phone when he ran a red light. We were turning left at a very strategic intersection where cars come from Ramot at full speed and therefor it was a side impact and B"H I was sitting on the wrong side. Every time I am in a car and the driver is attempting to call I open my mouth and protest there action, even if my husband is driving.

(7) Kelly Woo, January 18, 2009 2:21 PM

you're right!

Don't yell at yourself when you are right! Remember when all phones were attached to the wall? We somehow survived back in the "olden days."

(6) Anonymous, January 18, 2009 2:00 PM

Dear Rabbi Salamon, You are absolutely right! Now, if inly you could convince my husband! e,r,

(5) SusanE, January 18, 2009 2:00 PM

100% Agree but would Take it Further.

Operating machinery like an automobile should have 100% of our concentration. Especially the newer drivers who don't have years of experience behind the wheel. We have the lives of all the other people on the road in our hands.

I have talked on the phone while driving a couple times. Bad idea. I didn't wreck and I didn't cause an accident, but I certainly had other things on my mind than what was around the corner. I take my phone with me about town and on trips. But, when I get in the car I shut down the phone. I will check it at stops if I need to. I don't fool myself that I am so IMPORTANT that someone has to reach me 24/7.

Same thing goes for pets in the car, putting on make-up, playing with a GPS, changing CD's, and smoking, and the ever present eating behind the wheel. Is everyone nuts?

(4) Chaya Leah, January 18, 2009 11:38 AM

can you tell this to my husband PLEASE!!!!

I can't stand when my own husband drives and talks on the phone or worse yet- is when he text's- I think that we are playing with our lives by responding to a text message- a phone call to give a quick update "I'll be home in five minutes" or " I'll call you from the grocery store prepare a list.." is one thing but heated convverstions is really a danger!

(3) Moshe Rosen, January 18, 2009 9:49 AM

luck while driving and talking on the cel

Multitasking when it comes to driving can be risky, particularly with either talking on the cell phone or noshing from something we picked on in the drive-thru or 7-Eleven. It may all boil down to reaction time when it comes to hitting the break when we're about to come up upon someone, either vehicle or pedestrian in front of us. After getting into a few accidents on the road myself, I have learned the importance of reaction time. For a tip in particular, don't take klonapin, an anti-anxiety drug before you get behind the wheel, because that's one thing that can reduce your reaction time as it tends to make you more relaxed than necessary...Also, these rules of thumb about avoiding talking on the phone while driving, it's most likely best to turn it off. It can be extremely irritating when I have my cell phone on while I'm driving, and it rings in my pocket. I have to decide whether to dig it out or just have the call go to the answering machine. Fortunately, when my cell rings in my pocket, whether I pick it up or not, I feel thankful and lucky that I do not get into an accident in those instances, thus reiterating G-d's divine providence...I know Washington, DC has banned cell phone use, at least without hands-free devices. In the suburbs, where I live, I'm not sure how sooner or later a similar law will be enforced. If such a law is enforced in more places, I wonder how much car insurance rates will go up if one is pulled over for talking on the cell while driving...It can be bad enough that some people talk on their cell while driving to the point they don't notice a police cruiser's red and blue lights flashing in their head view mirror since they are so focused on talking on the phone and barely looking in front or behind of where they are driving.

(2) Anonymous, January 18, 2009 7:44 AM

What about bluetooth enabled cars and phones ?

Is it the content of a conversation or the actual use and performing cell phone operations that is shown to cause problems akin to drunk or distracted driving? If it is content, than there is no question that drivers owe each other 100% of their attention while driving. If it is the actual handling of the cell phone, than for a pure conversation,Bluetooth enabled cell phones and cars permit automatic hook up and dialing and speaking, hands free. Of course, one cannot use the automatic bluetooth connection to compose a text message (as far as I know), so text messages should be banned. If a person can use their automatic Bluetooth connection ot simply have conversations, this would seem to me to much like using a car's GPS to instruct drivers on where to go. Bluetooth is much like the two way radio that police cars have. Will they ever ban police cars from being able to communicate with one another?

(1) Bassie, January 18, 2009 6:11 AM

No-Phone is a No-Brainer

Thank you so much for giving us this particular something to think about. Banning all forms of at-the-wheel phone calling is a great mitzvah. I know what happens when drivers are distracted by talking on the phone. A cell-phone driver clipped my car when she lost control of hers and sent us both into multiple rollovers. Thank G-d for the people who invented safety features in automobiles! Even though my car was upside down, I was able to crawl out of the busted passenger-side window and suffered no more than a grazed forehead and a slightly abused nose (which happened when I released the seat belt and landed on my head, LOL). The other driver--AND THE TWO CHILDREN IN HER BACK SEAT--also escaped relatively unscathed. I'll do whatever I can to keep what happened to us from happening to anybody else.


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