Read a few articles (well, mostly reprints of a Reuters piece which seems to be sponsored by a startup – but thats the news these days, right?) this week on the topic of 89% of Americans say texting while driving should be banned, despite the fact that 57% of them admit to doing it. Sounds to me like about 50% of the people feel guilty about the fact that they text while driving, but don’t really want to change anything.
Let me do a brief disclaimer before the anonymous commenters go nuts on me: I agree that texting while driving is not just dangerous, but downright stupid.
Here’s the deal: doing any brain-intensive activity while driving is problematic. It turns out that humans simply aren’t good at having a “complex, intense conversation” (scroll down to the end) and usng the steering wheel and brake pads at the same time. This actually doesn’t surprise me when I think about it, since I’ve found I can’t really do anything at the same time as having a serious conversation (other than pace or chew my nails). As an interesting aside here, the reports similarly show that intense conversation with a passenger can be just as problematic (the important difference being, a passenger is more likely to notice traffic than the person on the other end of the call).
In my opinion (read: not based on some stat/fact), what it comes down to is the issue that most drivers refuse to change their behaviors while using a phone (or at least the ones I see). I see people cruising the 101 at 80mph, phone in hand. I see drivers on busy streets during rush hour glancing down at their phone to make a call.
I’ll now address the other issue: legislation. How on Earth do you “ban texting”? Picture being pulled over for it. In that much time, anyone “good” at texting has erased their phone’s outbox, so the only proof a cop would have is accessible by subpoenaing your cell phone records (yup, one more invasion of privacy). So logistically, every attempt to penalize would require cops to spend more time dealing with paperwork and lawyers, and less time protecting me from bad people. Wonderful.
In my opinion, the only possible solution is to ban drivers from holding cell phones, period. This would be (1) safer, and (2) enforceable (and hey, the Irish do it!). Cop sees a driver with a phone, no questions asked, $50 (or whatever) fine and a point on the record. Anything else is, for lack of a better word, silly.
Personally, I think driving can be its own distraction for some people. I’ve noticed, watching friends and relatives and strangers, that there’s 2 types of people. Those to whom driving comes naturally, and those that must concentrate on it. Those that concentrate can be easily distracted with nearly anything on the road, not just cellphones. I commute to work, and have seen people doing stupid stuff. Makeup, shaving, brushing teeth, PLAYING SOLITAIRE ON THEIR LAPTOP, jacking with their iPod, etc.
Eliminating mobiles from the list is, as you pointed out, nearly impossible to enforce.