Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Driving While Texting Should be Legal

Reuters has an article about a study that states that about a quarter of cell phone users admit to driving while texting.

A quarter of American cell phone users admit to texting while driving, despite bans in seven U.S. states and several serious accidents recently, according to a report on cell phone use released on Wednesday.

That probably means that even more people do it. Who wants to admit to doing something that's illegal, and caused several serious accidents recently? And if it's so common, then why aren't there even more terrible accidents being caused?

Some people can drive while texting, and some people can't handle it.

Some people sit with their eyes forward, seemingly on the road, hands on the wheel at ten and two, and daydream, running red lights and stop signs and plowing through school crossings, endangering our most precious resource ("the children"). If these people cause accidents, they should be punished. Should their punishment be any less because they didn't happen to have their cell phones or Blackberrys out at the time?

Yet 83 percent of the 5,000 people surveyed across the United States said they thought DWT should be illegal. The survey was carried out on behalf of mobile voice technology company Vlingo.

There seem to be a lot of people who believe, "I can handle it, but most people can't, so it should be illegal." How can more than a quarter admit to doing something that 83% believe should be illegal? At least a few of the people who do it must think it should be illegal. People can be pretty ridiculous sometimes.

Vlingo, by the way, makes hands free and voice recognition devices. Do you think their motives in commissioning this study were purely altruistic? Maybe their motives were simply to promote themselves- or maybe they were more sinister (if texting while driving is illegal, then all those driving-while-texters will have to buy hands free devices, won't they)?

Text messaging has been blamed for a number of recent high profile accidents, including a train crash in the Los Angeles area last September in which 25 people were killed, and a Boston trolley crash this month in which almost 50 people were injured.

In both cases, the drivers were found to have been sending and receiving text messages seconds before the crashes.

These paragraphs are totally disingenuous. They don't tell you that in both cases it was the operator of the trolley and of the train that was texting- not some average citizen driving a car and missing a four-way stop. If those are your top examples of the "dangers" or driving while texting, then why not start with a ban on the practice for those operating mass transit?

Oh, the practice was already banned in those cases. I see. So when the present rules are broken, the answer is to create more intrusive rules that directly affect nearly everyone on the road?

These new laws are necessary because they give the police one more excuse to pull you over. In Minnesota's version of the law, for instance:

Law enforcement will take action from what they observe and their perceptions at the time. Each city will decide the fine, which can be up to $300.

So the police can just pull you over and claim you appeared to be checking your text messages? Do 83% of people really want the police to be able to pull you over based on "their perceptions at the time"?

Some people can handle the distraction, and some people can't. That's just the way it is. Some people can look at a map while driving, some can read a book or magazine, some can listen to the radio, some can talk to their passengers, some can discipline their kids, and some just can't. Should we ban every single distraction, in the name of safety? What about eye-catching billboards? What about women who walk down the street with a bra and no shirt?

The world is full of distraction. Punish people who cause accidents.

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