Pros & Cons of Banning Cell Phones in Public Places

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Some of us have simply had it with cell phone use in public places. In April 2010, Florida Circuit Judge Anthony Johnson ordered a mobile phone owner to toss her phone in the garbage after it rang in his courtroom. Many behaviors stemming from lack of consideration for others have led to bans on cell phone use in businesses and public places.

1 Pro: Safety

In airplanes and hospitals, cell phones can interfere with the functioning of delicate instruments, a serious consideration. Many states have banned cell use while driving, citing a relationship between phones and traffic accidents. A 1997 "New England Journal of Medicine" study found that talking on a phone while driving quadrupled the risk of an accident, nearly equal to the danger from driving drunk.

2 Pro: Peace and Quiet

Many people go to places such as libraries specifically to focus and do work. Others attend church or religious services for time to worship and reflect. People who use their “cell yell” in such a setting distract others. When they have paid for a nice (or even a not-so-nice) restaurant meal, restaurant-goers feel entitled to soft conversation and a relaxed atmosphere in which to unwind. Some cell phone chatter remains inappropriate for anyone to overhear, especially young children.

3 Pro: Inconveniencing Others

Often cell phone users will multitask, attempting to carry on a conversation while using an ATM, driving or completing a store transaction. Their divided attention becomes an obstruction to the cashier and an inconvenience to those behind them, who must wait longer.

4 Con: Safety

Some argue that having 911 available at the touch of a button is critical to maintaining personal security. Cell phone bans impede drivers’ ability to report an accident, road rage incident, medical emergency or crime. Drivers assert the importance of calling for directions if lost or receive help if their car breaks down.

5 Con: Emergencies

Genuine emergencies do occur, and some calls truly cannot wait. People who have sick or elderly family members, parents expecting an important call from their child, and those in the midst of a crisis believe it’s acceptable to leave their phones on in public.

6 Con: Personal Freedom

Some Americans believe they have a right to talk on their phones under the First Amendment, and that cell phone bans intrude on their personal freedom. As they pay a high monthly price for this communication option, they believe they can use the devices wherever and whenever they choose.

Greil Cook has been a professional writer and editor for more than 25 years. Specializing in travel and arts coverage, she has published in "Outside Magazine," "Mothering,", "E: The Environmental Magazine" and many regional publications.