07/02/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Oprah's Saving Lives With Her Car Cell-Phone Campaign

If you're so damned important you need to bring a ringing cell phone into a restaurant or movie, there'd better be a sedan chair and bearers waiting outside for you.

Sorry, but none of us is THAT important. So unless you're a doctor -- or involved in a critical health-crisis situation -- please turn your cell off.

I'm pleased whenever I see businesses (like our pharmacy) posting notices to thoughtless customers like, "We'll be glad to help you when you finish your cell-phone conversation."

And don't even get me started on those silly, behind-the-ear Bluetooth devices. I won't talk to anyone wearing one.

We've now taken rudeness and thoughtlessness to a whole and dangerous new level in the past few years -- by yakking on cell phones in cars, thus endangering lives. (Is it really so unbearable not to have a phone to your ear at all times?)

Even a hands-free device is distracting enough to cause the driver's attention to divert enough to create a dangerous driving situation, several good studies have shown.

When I was getting my pilot's license, my flight instructor reminded me repeatedly, "Forget the radio and fly the airplane. That's your first priority!" She was right: One time, flying over the Oakland hills, I was so busy yakking on my Cessna's radio that I didn't see another plane coming up on my right. Lesson learned -- fortunately, non-fatally. Talking on the phone (OR radio) is MORE than a bit distracting -- hands-free version or otherwise.

I know many of you are thinking. "Don't even get me started on cell phones and rude people." Cell phones are yet the latest technological marvel that has also enabled humans' worst impulses -- namely, to blather pointlessly. And, in a vehicle, dangerously. The few times I have talked on my cell in a car, I felt like an idiot afterwards. My grown daughter flatly refuses to talk on her cell phone while driving. Good for her. I wish I'd always followed her example.

This leads to my wishing to thank Oprah Winfrey, as sycophantic and as tiresome as she sometimes can be, for her ongoing campaign against talking on cell phones - or even worse, texting - in cars.

Oprah aired a "No-Phone Zone Day" special this week, and called in to MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Friday to have all the show's anchors and guests sign her no-phoning-in-the-car pledge on the air. Co-host and busy Mom Mika Brzezinski admitted to Oprah that she was once a car-phone abuser.

"Now, I put mine in the trunk," said the bright newswoman, offering a good idea we might all want to remember and use. Oprah has enlisted big-name stars like "30 Rock's" Tracy Morgan to sign the agreement, and her worthy crusade has probably already saved lives on the highway.

One could argue that cell phones have caused almost as much physical and sociological damage to our society as television has. TV's still way ahead in that department, but cell phones are gaining.

The funny "Car Talk" guys on NPR have had a "Drive Now, Talk Later" campaign for years.

And while this TV columnist has criticized Oprah many times over the years, here she deserves nothing but praise -- because the influential talk host is probably saving lives.