Lloyd Garver: When breastfeeding's not OK

Lloyd Garver

A woman in Ohio was recently stopped by police for using her hand-held cell phone while driving. What's so unusual about that? She was not only driving and talking on her phone, she was breastfeeding her baby at the same time.

The woman was outraged that she was stopped and said that she did not want to let her baby go hungry. So it was concern for the child that made her endanger her kid? The baby was not strapped safely into a car seat while being nursed by the cell-phone-using/car-driving mommy.

All she had to do was put up with the baby's crying for a moment or two, pull over, and feed the kid. Up until now, I've never been a big fan of "three strikes" laws. However, driving, phoning and nursing are three strikes that deserve punishment.

Ohio is one of the six states that bans driving while talking on a handheld cellular phone. The District of Columbia has a similar law, and other localities have at least some restrictions about driving while talking on the phone. But again, that's not the only reason the police stopped her. Child endangerment is, obviously, the more serious charge. Imagine if Octo-Mom Nadya Suleman were driving while talking on the phone to Dr. Phil and nursing all eight of her babies at the same time. Yikes!

I live in a state that has banned talking on hand-held cell phones starting Jan. 1 of this year. Just prior to the beginning of 2009, my family went to a store and purchased equipment that would allow us to talk hands-free while driving. We weren't alone, so I thought I'd never see another driver trying to balance his steering wheel and cell phone while cutting me off with a left turn. Boy, was I wrong.

Not a day goes by that I don't see people driving and talking on their cell phones as if the new law had never been enacted. I called the police to see what we ordinary citizens are supposed to do when we see this activity. If we are pedestrians, should we run up to the car in the intersection and make a citizen's arrest? Are we supposed to honk or yell at the driver? Should we take down the license plate number and call the police?

Answer: None of the above. The police explained that a police officer must see the person committing this offense in order to cite him. They won't just take our word for it. Why not? Can't they just give us a lie detector test so they'll know we're telling the truth about the woman in that black SUV we see every day as she drives her kids to school and talks on the phone to set up a lunch date? 

It's very frustrating to keep seeing people drive dangerously while they talk on the phone and not be able to do anything about it. Sure, we've all seen drivers do other dangerous activities like putting on makeup, eating, reading, kissing and doing the crossword puzzle. What is so disturbing about the Ohio mom is that she combined cell phone use with doing something else that she shouldn't be doing while driving.

It probably shouldn't shock me. This is the era of multitasking, and I should get used to it. For generations, we heard about people who had sex in their cars. But that was in parked cars! I remember "Benjamin" – the Dustin Hoffman character – in "The Graduate" enjoying the fact that "Elaine" was conceived in "an old Ford." If they ever shoot a remake of that movie, they could probably say that Elaine was conceived in a Ford cruising down the highway at 70 mph while both parents were talking on their cell phones – and maybe doing their taxes, too.

Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Home Improvement" to "Frasier."  He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover. He can be reached at lloydgarver@gmail.com. Check out his Web site at lloydgarver.com and his podcasts on iTunes.