Driving into Washington, DC, one is greeted by highway signs warning of an
"elevated alert" and asking drivers to call 911 or 311 and report
"suspicious activity."

Except for one thing: The DC City Council just passed a ban ($100 fine and
no points) on using cellular phones while driving unless using a hands-free
device. This means that after today, while we can still apply makeup,
discipline kids (even in the back seat), check (or send) e-mail, read a map,
slurp down a double-shot latte, or unwrap and eat a double-decker burger
while driving, we're prohibited from "being distracted" while using a
cellular phone without a hands-free device -- potentially even if it's a
patriotic attempt to follow the City's suggestion and report suspicious

Assume for a moment that you notice something seriously strange -- or even
pass a major accident -- and wish to report it. Instead of simply pressing
9-1-1 and "Send" we have to fumble for a pen and paper - and then jot stuff
down while moving - so that when we do find a safe parking lot to make our
call to 911 or 311 legally (hopefully without getting into an accident
ourselves first) we won't forget things that might help the police or

I can imagine talking to my girlfriend while driving down K Street, getting
pulled over, and telling the policeman (and soonafter the judge in traffic
court)  "sir, I was reporting a suspicious activity and trying to protect
the homeland and our city, just as your signs requested...why should I get


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