Your Daily Mindjob
This is my personal blog where I'll offer up some political straight talk as well as thoughts on technology and pop culture. That should give me plenty to talk about. The world can give you one heck of a mindjob. Think like me and get your daily dose.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

On Distracted Driving Legislation

The legislation related to "Distracted Driving" currently sits in committee. I'm primarily writing this post to first voice my opposition to such legislation, but also to make it clear both Democrats and Republicans are cosponsoring the proposed legislation.

While I understand the risk for having an accident has been shown to be increased while texting or talking on a cell phone, I, like many others, find serious faults in the rationale of the group spearheading the movement. One cannot use drunk driving as a direct comparison to advance the cause. A call on a cell phone may impair, but not always. Alcohol most definitely will impair someone's ability. Proponents speaking out on national television also assume that a vehicle is a deadly weapon when, in a legal sense, a vehicle really isn't viewed as a deadly weapon until AFTER something has happened.

Another problem with this push rests in enforcement of the law. Targeting cell phone use, while admittedly a difficult task by officers, is still a form of selective enforcement. Those eating, singing to music, audiobooks, or podcasts, fiddling with the radio, mp3 player, GPS, child, or any other distraction in the vehicle will not be included, yet all will increase the risk of having an accident. The inevitable question to ask is "Where does it end?"

A third problem with this push involves enforcement via GPS. An idea has been proposed to allow GPS based systems to prevent drivers from making or receiving calls while driving. While this will indeed cut down on phone usage while driving, the rights of passengers to make a call or text falls under question. This GPS system would undoubtedly prevent anyone else in the vehicle from making a call or sending a text message. They aren't driving. They can behave as distracted as they please. Having a passenger make the call or send the text is a responsible alternative. You also infringe on the freedoms of a passenger whose phone call or text probably has very little to do with matters of conveyance.

Proponents of limiting mobile phone use while driving claim no phone call is worth someone's life. I would argue that there have been times when I needed to contact someone who was driving over matters of both life and death as well as patient care. I've also had circumstances where an immediate decision was required and I did not have the information necessary to make that decision without the input from a third party who was on the road. While not life or death, it was a situation requiring an urgent answer that could not wait until the person stopped driving. It leaves me wondering if there are calls that should be allowed. We cannot legislate or enforce anything of that scale.

Lastly, as an advocate of technological advancement, legislation like this will impede development of communication technologies as we know it. The drive for better mobile networks, interactive electronics, and technological integration into our lives in part, comes from those devices we use in our vehicles.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't condone unsafe driving behavior. I am willing to support legislation prohibiting texting while driving. Calling is a whole different can of worms. Texting just hasn't taken hold like it has in other countries. That being said, I'd love to find some stats on driving and mobile phone use in England, for example, where texting caught on faster than it did here. Where do you think I learned to text in the first place?

The second point to make I direct towards conservatives who assume that this is some sort of liberal attempt to cram something down our throats. There are Republicans cosponsoring the legislation sitting in committee.

Senate: Distracted Driving Act of 2009
Sen. John Rockefeller [D-WV]
Robert Casey [D-PA]
Kay Hutchison [R-TX]
Amy Klobuchar [D-MN]
Frank Lautenberg [D-NJ]
Bill Nelson [D-FL]
Charles Schumer [D-NY]
John Thune [R-SD]
David Vitter [R-LA]
Mark Warner [D-VA]

House: Distracted Driving Act of 2009
Rep. Eliot Engel [D-NY17]
Jean Schmidt [R-OH2]

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