[FoRK] Laws that ban texting while driving could be counter productive

Gary Stock gstock at nexcerpt.com
Wed Sep 14 21:07:13 PDT 2011

The risk of driving is largely a ~collective~ risk.  It's time to stop 
pretending otherwise.

Even the most superior, godlike driver can have an accident.  That's why 
they call them "accidents."

More than one car is often involved in a collision.  That's why they 
call them "collisions."

As repeatedly acknowledged here, a significant number of people are 
"zoned out" or suffer "stunted" performance, while another number "Have 
screaming kids in the car?  Thinking?  Being hungry?  Having to go to 
the bathroom?" What does that distracted segment total?  Forty percent 
all cars on the road?  Sixty?

That leaves safety up to the ~rest~ of us.  We must ~compensate~ for 
that distracted group -- or die with them.

As our "responsible" segment becomes more distracted by electronic 
devices and remote activities, safety ~does~ suffer.  It's foolish to 
suggest otherwise -- no matter how superhuman we wish we were -- because 
we're not alone on the roads.

To suggest that the "act of driving" happens in such isolation is a bit 
like choosing to drive a bigger car because it's "safer."  Safer for 
whom? Not safer for anyone driving a more ecologically responsible 
smaller car. Driving the bigger car makes you more likely to commit 
vehicular manslaughter.  Where's the "safety" in that?  In your imagination.

Arguing ~only~ the positives of a collective situation -- as though 
anyone who wishes it can have nuthin' but upside -- ignores the many 
(usually equal, sometimes more profound) negatives.  It's the motoring 
equivalent of "trickle down economics," where everything just gets 
better and better.  I do hope we're smarter than that.


On 9/14/11 10:20 PM, Stephen Williams wrote:
> On 9/14/11 10:48 AM, Aaron Burt wrote:
>> On Wed, Sep 14, 2011 at 09:16:26AM -0700, Stephen Williams wrote:
>>> Plenty of people making statements that assume that no driver can
>>> handle any distraction in any circumstance because some stupid
>>> person zoned out and caused a crash.
>> As the guy down the bar says, "I can drive home jes' fine."
> And some probably can drive safe-ish far further than the legal 
> limit.  But that's not necessary, and you could easily cross that 
> level minutes later, etc.  While perhaps a bit on the overboard side 
> in penalties for those barely over the limit, DUI laws are generally 
> on target.  I lost a young cousin to a drunk driver in a tiny Ohio town.
>>> 'But Jeffrey Hickman of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute
>>> has analyzed the risks of various driver activities.  Even though
>>> it's counterintuitive, he said, hands-free phone use can be safer
>>> than not using a phone at all because "drivers on a hands-free tend
>>> to compensate by watching the road more carefully when they are
>>> talking."'
>> "Can be", not "has been shown to be".  Which is a good disclaimer, since
>> all the evidence I've seen indicates that hands-free phone use is 
>> nearly as
>> dangerous.  Most folks don't think to compensate.
> I don't believe he is conjecturing that it is possible, he is 
> summarizing actual studies of people with and without hands-free phone 
> use.  He is also not saying that every person is safer, the "can be" 
> indicates that a subset of drivers are more attentive and safe with 
> hands-free phone use than without.  He did not specify what percentage 
> he's talking about.  Based on another study, previously cited, a 
> significant, but less than majority percentage, are as safe 
> multi-tasking as not.  That is a different, stronger indication that 
> for at least some people this kind of multi-tasking is not a problem.
>> As Canadian Bob Dobbs says, "If you're on the phone, that's Virtual 
>> Reality."
>> Sorry for the yammering, this topic just gets my goat.  I've been riding
>> motorcycles for 15 years, and bicycling to work off-and-on for the 
>> last 5.
> I've run, inline skated, and bicycled tens of thousands of miles on 
> streets and highways, including downtown DC for many many miles on 
> skates.
>> Like any prey animal, I constantly watch for signs of danger, and the
>> surest sign of upcoming high-kinetic-energy dumbassery is the 
>> upraised hand
>> and glassy eyes of the cellphone driver.
> Road dumbth is not restricted to those talking on a phone.  Worse 
> probably are those robotically performing a daily commute without 
> really paying attention, zoned out on some random train of thought.  
> How are you going to outlaw that?  Other by generally saying: "Pay 
> attention!"  People are not automatically alert and safe because 
> they're not talking on the phone.
> Everyone starts out fairly unsafe when a new driver.  And has to learn 
> to handle more distraction and more complexity in driving.  The fact 
> that some remain stunted or that some fail before they become 
> proficient is not grounds to penalize those who have become proficient 
> and highly safe.
>> And yes, I know YOU are different, and YOU can handle your 
>> liq^Wcellphone.

More information about the FoRK mailing list