Texting and Driving

9 Oct

Apparently, it is now illegal to text whilst you are in a car in the state of Florida. I’m not sure of all the permutations of the new law, but if you choose to live on the wild side, you may want to become acquainted with the rules, so that you can follow them appropriately. I find this whole line of law-making, which is apparently now the case in 40 states, a strange course of action.

Now, I think everyone is for more safety in driving. I think that it in incumbent upon us to do what we can to make the roads as safe as possible. Further, drivers are safer when they are not distracted. Texting is a distraction. Virtually everyone supports these two premises, and when juxtaposed with the “fact,” we “all” want people to quit texting. Ergo, passing an anti-texting while driving bill is the sway of culture and will eventually be the law everywhere.

I, however, am not so quick to jump in with support. Now, let me confess that I have texted while driving before. I believe I probably shouldn’t do it most of the time. I have self-bias, which means I believe that most people are probably even more dangerous when texting and driving than I am. So, why would I not be in violent support of such a bill?

First, I think the bill is far better than the selt belt requirement. Seat belts put my life in danger, while texting has the potential to put other lives in danger. So, I give it marks for being better than some already existing laws, but that isn’t usually enough to satisfy me, largely because I think many of the current laws are not well purposed. Second, I think the law may actually have the ability to save lives, if it is followed.

Therein is the rub. People don’t follow laws all the time. More importantly, I think that we have made the shift, as a culture, to making laws the standard for morality. If someone asks if you can do something, I believe our first reaction is normally one of answering legality. That’s a good thought, but why is it that whether I text (or wear a seatbelt or drive faster than the safe speed) is only based on whether or not the good folks in Tallahassee (or whatever your state capital is) or Washington (or whatever the capital of your country is) have written a law.

We should be governed by our own common sense and not exclusively by the law. I should stop texting not because there is a law against it, which can probably be found with enough loopholes that I could probably sneak by, but rather because it makes the car safer for me and the passengers and the road safer for the others in my path. But the additional reason I recoil at this law is because I don’t think we necessarily want the government to determine what is distracting and what is not. I mean, I think talking on the cell phone can be distracting. Listening to the radio is definitionally distracting. Talking to another person is distracting.

This morning, the distraction of talking with my son, Jake, distracted me enough where I drove to my work, before I realized that I was supposed to be taking him to school. Of course, there are times where I’ve driven on trips, where the very thing I needed was a distraction. Someone to talk to me to take my mind off of things (maybe even to keep me from realizing my own fatigue). Distractions can be beneficial or even necessary. Are we starting down the slippery slope of doing away with them?

I remember years ago when I worked in an office and began having a conversation where I was criticizing those who drive drunk. I realized that a co-worker had, in fact, been arrested for such years earlier. One thing he told me is that he feels that at that time his level of impairment was far less than other times when he had driven while being tired, which is perfectly legal. The fact is you cannot legislate competence, so you just try to eliminate the things you can. Drunk driving is bad, and I believe it should be illegal (as the privilege to drive should come with parameters).

Nevertheless, there is no sleepiness quotient while driving. Texting should be discouraged (and dramatically reduced) while driving, but I’m not going to say that we must do away with all distractions in the car. Some of those distraction keep us awake when we are tired and keep us from going crazy when we’re wide awake with a mind prone to wander. So, before I get caught texting in this blog, let me close it by saying that I have very mixed feelings about a law that I wholeheartedly hope makes an impact.


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