Saturday, June 16, 2007

Do not read this blog while driving.

The headline in today's Philadelphia Inquirer caught my eye, as headlines are supposed to do:
N.J. bill targets distracted drivers
New legislation would ban text messaging while driving and toughen rules on cell-phone use
TRENTON - New Jersey drivers may soon have to quit sending text messages, yakking on a handheld cell phone and careening through red lights. Two Assembly panels yesterday pushed forward legislation that would make it illegal to send text messages while driving, give police more power to target drivers using handheld cell phones, and allow towns to install cameras to catch drivers disobeying red lights.
Hmmm ... don't we already have to stop at red lights? As far as the phone is concerned, New Jersey passed a toothless law in 2004 that "banned" the use of cell phones while driving, but the police can only ticket you if you get caught doing something else illegal - like running over a kid or crashing into a guardrail.
So, here we go again with another law. I'm fascinated by new laws designed to fight new technology. Generally, they make criminals out of people who are guilty of using technology that they were sold willingly.
The answer is not another law. We already have ten that we can't follow, and every new one we make only serves to compound the problem. The answer lies in the vehicle.
If we are Hell bent on stopping the use of cell phones while driving, then build cars where the phone will not work while you are inside. It can't be the hardest problem. Insulate the roof and door panels to stop the signal from coming in.
If we are supposed to wear seat belts, then build the car so that it won't start until the seat belts are buckled.
If we are not supposed to drink and drive, build a Breathalyzer into the vehicle's ignition so that it won't start if we blow alcohol into it. That one isn't a 100% answer to the problem, but it comes as close as we can get for now.
These aren't the hardest problems in the world, folks. The last thing we need are more laws and more fines that only lead to higher insurance rates. Stop the problem at its source.
Violators of the cell-phone ban would face a $250 fine. The fine for texting while driving would be $100. Safety advocates said New Jersey needs legislation tackling all driver distractions.
"We continue to believe that it's the conversation, not the cell phone, that causes distraction," said David Weinstein of AAA Mid-Atlantic. "AAA would be comfortable supporting an all-encompassing driver distraction bill."
Safety advocates - safety Nazi's - whatever. They tell us we need another law, and that distractions are a problem. OK, so let's do away with cup holders because they are distracting. Radios and CD players are distracting. GPS systems are distracting. Cigarette lighters are distracting. Air-conditioner and heater controls are distracting. Passengers are distracting, conversation is distracting and God knows kids are distracting. Meanwhile, we are sold cars with DVD players in the back seat so that the kids can watch while we drive.
Cars are increasingly distracting, and if you trace the development of the automobile, the one distinguishing characteristic is that we continue to build-in more and more gadgets.
The answer isn't more laws. All they do is make criminals out of people who are only guilty of using the technology that we are given. Require the auto makers to build cars that are less distracting or cars that prevent problems like cell phone use and seat belt use that are almost impossible for police to enforce.
If it is true that the distractions are the problem, then solve the problem. Machines are easier to change than the people who use them.


kimmyk said...

I have friends [unfortunately] who have that little breathalyzer thinkamajig in their car. They're not close friends anymore. Wonder why? Anyways, my car [as told to my children since they were the age of 1] will not start unless you are buckled up.

I'm already ahead of the game. I've also started telling people I can't talk-I'm driving while in the car. Whether I'm driving or not. I just don't like to yak on the phone. Unless I like you. I like you'd be ok to talk to.

Sparky Duck said...

Or maybe make OnStar cheaper, so everyone could get it and we would just be talking into thin air, or our rearview mirrors.

Ladyred said...

OMG I have been bitching about this lately because some dumb ass almost sideswiped me while TEXT MESSAGING WHILE DRIVING> Sorry didn't meant to yell. But come one?!?!?! You have a fucking phone for christ's sake and you feel the need to TYPE while driving? I don't like people who talk while driving but if I had to choose, it certainly would not be texting. I blared the horn but of course they did no wrong. Wait until my 1/2 smacks into her and then we'll see who's wrong. I'm getting an air horn.

I totally agree with your suggestions. Why they haven't been implemented? That would be far too costly for the auto maker and would MAKE SENSE.