Friday, September 4, 2009

Utah is the first state to sort of get it.

Living in Utah I'm pleased to see that they recently passed a new bill here to do with texting whilst driving: It views the act is inherently reckless and punishes it as harshly as drunk driving. It's a far stronger law than most of those already existing in other states; California's, for example, punishes offenders with a tiny fine, usually around $20.
The problem is that they still treat it as a secondary offence - ie. you can't actually be stopped by the police if they see you texting. That's a problem. Until it's a primary offence, and one that is enforced properly, it's not going to stop anybody. In fact on the evening news, they even said "so it's OK to check your email and surf the web, but make sure you don't text".
How about "put the goddamn phone down and engage your brain in the act of driving".
The police and politicians are quick to spout the usual lie about "speeding kills" (which it doesn't - fact - you can read about that in the facts and fiction about speeding) but they won't do anything about people who use cellphones whilst driving.
Whereas only 4% of accidents can be directly attributed to speeding, your chances of being involved in an accident whilst texting go up 2300% (source). Why aren't the police taking this seriously? For that matter, why do they not care about people who read the newspaper, do their makeup, use the laptop or any of the other multitude of distractions that people engage themselves with in front of me every day on my morning commute? Is it because America is the country that has actually encouraged laptop use whilst driving with products like the Laptop Copilot (below)? I know the manufacturers will claim it shouldn't be used whilst driving but I've seen people doing exactly this. (I'd like to see the airbag go off and see what happens).
This can't be a revenue thing - the police would make far more stopping people for texting than they'll ever do by stopping people for doing 31mph in a 30 zone. This whole thing is such a mystery to me. It's so obviously a problem yet nobody is willing to do anything about it. Why demonise speeding when texting causes far more accidents?

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