Friday, July 06, 2012

The real problem with texting and driving

The real problem with texting and driving is that the person texting may kill or maim others besides.

If it wasn't for the very real possibility that someone might take me or one of mine with them whilst killing him or herself, I'd be all in favor of texting and driving.

It would be a self-correcting problem, don't you see? Darwinism at its finest!

Long Suffering Spouse drove me to work this morning (there's next to no traffic on the inbound Kennedy during this hot spell/holiday week) and we were almost taken out by a panel truck that drifted unpredictably into our lane as we were passing him.

Because we were passing him, I could almost immediately see that the person at the wheel of the truck -- it is entirely too generous to call him the "driver" -- had his head turned to the right so he could better see his phone (avoiding the Sun's glare, I suppose). Perhaps we should be grateful that he was typing only with his right thumb.

Nevertheless, I remain against current texting-while-driving laws.

Why? you gasp. Some of you may flutter your mousepad as you read such lunacy, trying not to faint.

But think about it: Mr. Idiot-Behind-the-Wheel-of-the-Panel-Truck was not arrested for his obvious violation this morning. He got away with it. Thanks to my wife's timely evasive maneuver, we were not killed; a collision was avoided. In this sense Mr. Idiot-Behind-the-Wheel-of-the-Panel-Truck's bad behavior was reinforced: He did what he did and nothing bad happened. He is more likely, therefore, to do it again. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Chicago area, in a pocket of congestion, someone picking up a phone to text briefly that he'd be delayed may have been observed by a policeman, perhaps one walking by. The driver in congestion was behaving in a far less dangerous manner that Mr. Idiot-Behind-the-Wheel-of-the-Panel-Truck, who was proceeding at full speed without even a glance through his windshield, but the observant policeman, because of the congestion that prompted the text in the first place, could stroll over, knock on the driver's window and give him a ticket.

I've actually seen this happen along Wells Street near the Merchandise Mart: I've seen a foot cop pull over cell-phone users stopped, or nearly stopped, in heavy traffic.

So we have a law with a good purpose -- protecting the rest of us from careless idiots -- but one which is selectively enforced, and not enforced at all in the most egregious circumstances. This is not a good law; it engenders contempt for the law generally.

Now, if Mr. Idiot-Behind-the-Wheel-of-the-Panel-Truck had managed to sideswipe us, as he was seemingly hellbent on doing, he might then have gotten a ticket for texting. Maybe. If we'd seen him. Assuming that we survived.

But I put it to you, ladies and gentlemen, that it makes more sense to have an anti-texting law that applies solely when the behavior contributes to an accident than one that applies any time traffic is moving slowly enough that a foot cop can enforce it (that time being the only time when momentary texting might arguably, possibly, potentially be safe). We can still educate, we can still run those very emotional anti-texting commercials. But we can avoid selective enforcement which breeds resentment in those stopped and reinforces bad behaviors in people who violate the law and are not punished.

What say ye?


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The Curmudgeon said...

OK, OK, so these are probably spam comments -- but they're not plugging anything in particular and they're so nice I couldn't help myself; I just had to put these up.

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The Curmudgeon said...

Here another spam comment -- not plugging anything, though (and appealing to my vanity). I wonder what the benefit of this sort of spam might be?

Anonymous said...

It's pretty interesting that the mainstream media has changed the way it looks at this recently dont you think?

The Curmudgeon said...

If this isn't a spam comment, I'd be curious to know how/why Mr./Ms. Anon thinks the MSM has 'changed' its views on texting and driving. I can't think of a time when the MSM was ever for it, or even indifferent to it....

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