Monday, February 15, 2010

Don’t We Already Have a Law?

At this point, I think it would be almost impossible to find someone who hasn’t seen the videos of people texting and driving and simulated texting–related accidents. Our legislators have been speaking out and setting their pens a blaze writing new cell phone and texting-while-driving legislation. Oprah has even jumped in to help spread the word. You can go to her Web site and sign a No-Phone Zone Pledge.

It probably sounds like I don’t think texting while driving is a big deal, but that’s not the case at all. I think it is a little like playing Russian Roulette if you text and drive. I find myself watching other drivers and driving defensively much more that is probably safe, which is a pretty oxymoronic statement. It just seems like there are already laws there for things like this – reckless or careless driving. According to FindLaw.com, the definition of reckless/careless driving is a "reckless" or "willful" disregard for the safety of other people, including other drivers and pedestrians. Some specific examples accompany that definition, including: Driving 25 miles per hour (or more) over the posted speed limit, Racing another vehicle, Trying to elude a police officer, Passing another vehicle when visibility of oncoming traffic is limited on a two-lane highway. It seems like the list of activities that could be deemed a “reckless” or “willful” disregard for the safety of other people could nearly be endless, which makes that particular moving violation a nice catch-all.

Think about it next time you’re driving and notice if you are doing things that distract you from driving. If we are going to pass new laws that make it illegal to talk on the phone and text while driving, how about some of these?

Sleeping – I actually watched someone sleeping while driving when I was on Hwy 40 one morning on my way to work. His head was tilted back, his mouth was open, he obviously wasn’t keeping it between the lines, and he was driving about 15-20 mph under the speed limit. When his head dropped back far enough, it caused him to wake up for a minute. He would then get back in his lane and get back up to the speed limit – then his head would begin to tilt back, mouth would open, and it started all over again.

Eating – I do this fairly often myself. I try to make driving-friendly choices like sandwiches or wraps, but spills are inevitable and then I have to add clean-up and stain removal to the list.

Grooming – I think I would poke my eye out if I tried to apply makeup while driving. Guys aren’t immune here either; there are plenty of pictures and videos online of men shaving while driving.

Reading – Since I have about an hour’s drive to and from work, I get to see some interesting things pretty regularly. The guy with the newspaper spread over the steering wheel and reading , or the person with the textbook or novel open on the steering wheel are pretty scary as well.

Multitasking – These days there is a lot of emphasis placed on being able to multitask to get through the day, but multitasking behind the wheel isn’t a great idea. Who came up with the notepad that suctions to the dash so you can write while driving? Then you get a call and need to write down information – this requires driving with the knees or some other creative manor. A guy pulled up beside me the other day and he had a phone to his ear with one hand, a Starbucks in the other, and I was really curious what was controlling the wheel.

Media Management – I’ve also found myself guilty of working with my GPS while driving. The GPS, iPod, radio, and now those handy TV/DVD players that are popular in vehicles each take your attention away from driving. I saw a commercial recently about a car that now has Internet access on the dash. THAT seems like a great idea – surfing the net, uploading videos, and updating your Facebook status while driving. Can you get a full QWERTY keyboard on a steering wheel? Are the mouse buttons on the underside of the steering wheel?

Anyway…all of this to say – do we really need a new law for each individual activity that you should not engage in while driving? It seems like we already have that. If the infraction causes injury or death, I think we have that covered, too. Now I’ll step down from my soap box.

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