By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: Cell phone comment was ahead of its time

Many online forums are snake pits of rude and abusive commentary. In contrast, we’ve come to appreciate the reader comments on our newspaper website articles.


Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

> See his column

We monitor comments, occasionally reminding contributors to use civility and good taste, occasionally warning against hate-speech, abusive language and libelous charges. Our policy urges people to “respect others’ opinions, even as you may disagree with them.” It seems to work. comments can appear edgy, of course. But they also can be respectful, productive and sources of good ideas.

One regular online contributor — self-identified as “Mudstump” — commented recently about the terrible Wallace Road accident that killed an elderly couple and a 4-year-old girl. The comment speculated that a driver who crossed the center line “for unknown reasons” may have been distracted by cell phone usage.

“It seems to me,” wrote Mudstump, “that with all the advances in technology, someone could come up with something that would block a cell phone from working while the engine of the car/truck is running … It seems like such a waste of taxpayer money to ask law enforcement to try and monitor all drivers for cell phone use … We need something way more effective. People are being killed and injured on our roads. Something must be done.”

We have observed Mudstump as a prolific online commentator for the past 5 years – someone who more than once has supported government policies that save lives, and who would have appreciated this 2013 quote concerning an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association:

“According to co-author Dr. Jeffrey Coben, the issue stems from two converging phenomena: a proliferation of mobile technology that has only amplified the risks associated with calling or texting while driving, and state-legislated bans that, while well-intentioned, remain difficult to enforce. Coben’s proposed solution? In-car technology that would render cellphones inoperable.”

Now, skip forward to 2018. That year, according to, “4,637 people died in car crashes due to cell phone use. Including the cost to people’s lives, these crashes were responsible for $129 billion — or 15 percent — of the overall societal damage caused by motor vehicle crashes.”

We all remember resistance to government regulations universally accepted today. You know, like mandates to wear seat belts and prohibitions against abusing children.

There probably would be rioting if government suddenly compelled technology that prevented cell phone use by drivers. But ultimately, it will come, so it seems Mudstump is ahead of his/her time.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at or 503-687-1223.


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