Multiple Choice: You Will Be Graded on This
Q: Four drivers are traveling down Highway 70, going approximately 55 mph. Allen is drunk; Betty is 85 years old and has trouble seeing clearly and reacting quickly; Clarence is coming off of a 27-hour shift at work; and Deandra is happily texting while listening to ABBA on an oldies station. Which of these drivers is the most dangerous, and who most deserves a ticket?
A: Whoever causes an accident.
This is a trick question, designed to make you think about which driving distractions are actually dangerous. Some people get in collisions when there is no identifiable distraction, but the list of possible distractions is endless, including a blinding glare from the sun, kids in the back seat, and hilarious bumper stickers on other cars. One important aspect of driving, or just being on the road, is safely negotiating the hazards that come one’s way.
In the Springfield News-Leader, Timothy Cloninger postulates that texting is no more dangerous than other driving distractions, and requests that both drivers and lawmakers exercise common sense in assessing the danger (emphasis mine):
Distracted driving is the problem, not texting. Existing laws already cover this, including careless driving, driving without due care and attention and reckless driving.
Cloninger also points out that legislation against texting while driving could simply encourage violators to pay more attention to hiding their behavior:
Even if you believe it should be illegal, a law that specifically calls out texting is impossible for police to proactively enforce: One, it’s too easy to avoid detection: simply hold your phone in a lower, more dangerous position.
Show-Me Institute research assistant John Payne stated on this blog that “a newly released study by the auto insurance industry found no decrease in auto crashes in states that enacted laws banning texting or talking on a hand-held cellphone while driving.”
While creating more legislation may seem like a proactive way to protect us from one another, this is not necessary if there are already laws that prohibit dangerous driving. Most people want to drive safely and will go to great lengths to avoid a collision. I personally wish that drivers would not text or play with Foursquare while operating a vehicle. Yet I respect their rights to make their own decisions, and I evaluate their driving safety based on how many accidents they are involved in, rather than on what they were doing at the time.