I am going to preface this blog entry by stating that I think talking on your cell phone is not the smartest thing to do while you’re driving and that sending a text message (or doing updates, etc) while driving is just downright stupid.
The NTSB announced yesterday that nearly a year after a multi-car pileup in Missouri as the result of a 19-year old sending 11 text messages in the 11 minutes prior to the crash, they are recommending that all states immediately institute laws banning the use of electronic devices by drivers of motor vehicles. Electronic devices would include everything except GPS units or the use of a cell phone in an emergency.
Here is a prime example of what is wrong with our government. I think the NTSB’s recommendation is a bunch of grandstanding hysterics. The NTSB is going down the path of trying to legislate common sense. It’s never a good path to take.
Let’s consider this:
1. Entering an address into a GPS unit is no different than sending a text message, yet one is perfectly fine and the other would be against the law. In fact, entering an address into a GPS unit is usually more difficult to accomplish than sending a text message.
2. GPS units are usually mounted to the windshield. This is unfortunate, because they often obstruct the view of the motorist, creating an unnecessary blind spot. Yet, this is okay.
3. Some folks (including me) use the GPS functionality of their iPhone for navigation purposes. I am not about to go purchase another electronic device to keep in my car when I don’t have to, yet using the iPhone would be illegal because it’s not a dedicated GPS unit.
Let’s go into this a little bit further:
1. A man can no longer shave with an electric razor because it could probably be considered an electronic device, yet a woman could still put on makeup while driving because that’s manual all the way. I’ve mentioned my dislike of men using electric razors before so you know that I’m not defending either activity in this case. Another broad piece of recommended legislation that doesn’t make any sense.
2. Wanda Wigout can still get a hot cup of coffee from McDonalds, ignore the warnings printed all over the cup and proceed to dump the hot contents of the cup all over her va-jay-jay as she tries to balance said cup of coffee on her knee. Since the coffee cup is not electronic, there’s nothing wrong with that, other than a burned va-jay-jay. And quite frankly I don’t care about her va-jay-jay, but I bet she would be distracted and could easily smack into another vehicle while screaming about the pain she is feeling in her nether regions.
3. The recommendation includes the banning of MP3 and CD players but allows the use of radios, which is a hoot to me because apparently you have to listen to one station at one volume because adjusting anything would be against the law. You are not to be distracted by changing the track or anything like that.
3a. Does that mean that we will get a payment from the government to have the CD and/or MP3 player removed from the dash of our car? What do I do when SiriusXM flashes the artist and title of the song I would like to dance to but dare not do, do I ignore it? Do I risk hitting the nob to blank the display? Do I shake both hands in the air and silently say “help me, help me?”
4. As a roadgeek I can apparently still take photos and movies of road signs and highways as long as I am using a film based camera, but I can’t do it if it’s a digital device.
5. If I were a smoker, I could still smoke and drive with one hand and not be in trouble in anyway for doing so.
6. We’ve already covered Ms. Wigout’s va-jay-jay, but consider that eating a Whopper and smacking kids in the back seat of the car would still be okay, because no one is electronic unless I adopted a robot.
7. It is apparently perfectly fine to drive by looking around the flailing ass of a random Irish Setter.
8. What happens to On*Star? Do I risk pushing the button built into my review mirror or do I drive the car into a guide rail to get their attention?
35 states already have legislation banning both hands on cell phone conversational and text messaging use by a driver. These laws are ignored by a good majority of the driving public and attempts to enforce these laws are feeble at best. Why does the NTSB think that making a national legislative recommendation such as this going to get any sort of special consideration?
Look it, as I’ve said before, I think that when you’re behind the wheel you should be concentrating on your driving and doing little else. I’m not afraid to risk scratching my nuts once in a while and quite frankly I can handle having brief conversations while using my headset. In fact, if you’ve talked to me on the phone while I’m driving recently, you’ll note that I precede the conversation with “I’m talking on my headset!” I am so tired of our government trying to legislate anything and everything down to the lowest common denominator of intelligence. And quite frankly, this is none of the federal government’s business, it is a matter that belongs to the states. If I don’t like the laws in one state, I always have the option to move.
The NTSB will probably get their way by conning someone to withhold federal highway funds unless a state complies, just like they did when some states didn’t feel the need to raise the drinking age to 21 in the mid 1980s (which, by the way, has done little to reduce alcohol-based road fatalities yet ended up with an increase in under-age drinking).
Our government is too big, too intrusive and apparently has too much time on their hands. Education, not legislation, is the key to solving the problem of distracted driving. I would much rather see a significant increase in the standards of obtaining a driver’s license (and the need to retest in specified intervals to maintain your license) before just adopting more repetitive, unenforceable legislation.
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