Unnecessary Letter to the Editor

by Mar 31, 2014Culture, Tech2 comments

© Jeremy Noble, Flickr

I just found out that Greenville, SC has banned texting while driving within the city limits. I’m glad. Looks like I won’t have to send this letter to the editor I “jotted down” to myself via an audio note (on my phone, while driving…):

I’m a freedom-loving American. I don’t want to live in a nanny state. I can certainly understand why state governments would choose not to tell their citizens what to do with their cellphones while driving.

But I’m also, fairly newly, a parent. And, fairly newly, a smartphone owner. I’m surprised at the power of this little device to call for my attention even when it should be on the road down which I am guiding a multi-ton metal object at high speeds.

I’ve been driving now for 13 years and a passenger for longer than that. I have rarely in my lifetime witnessed erratic driving such that I was aware that I was in the presence of a drunk driver. But I am constantly now seeing people texting while driving. And if what the studies say is true, that texting while driving is the equivalent of an X.X. [hadn’t done that research yet] blood-alcohol level, then I wonder—could SC be seen as a forward-thinking state because it refused to buy this law at the price of the lives of its citizens? That is, how many people are going to have to die due to texting and driving accidents before this law comes into effect? I feel fairly certain that such a law will come into effect if these studies are accurate. Must we wait until public outcry over 20, 83, 162? deaths forces us to act? Let’s act now.

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  1. dcsj

    Hi Mark

    I agree, texting while driving is insane.

    However… I recently took a Defensive Driving course (and have a certificate! with my name misspelled!) Anyway, in the course material, published by the Canada Safety Council, there was a table about distracted driving causing crashes. Of all crashes due to distracted driving, only 1.5% were “using/dialing cell phone”

    Here are the rest:

    Things outside the car/vehicle – 29.4%
    Adjusting radio/CD etc. – 11.4%
    Other occupants – 10.9% (screaming kids??)
    Moving object in vehicle – 4.3%
    Adjusting vehicle controls – 2.8%
    Eating or drinking – 1.7%
    Using/dialing cell phone – 1.5%
    Other – 25.6%

    I assume “other” is a miscellany of items that are all under 1.5% by themselves, but are distinct categories different from all the rest.

    There is no date on the chart, no source, but this is from the Defensive Drivers Manual, the syllabus for the Defensive Driving Course, published by the Canada Safety Council, 2011.

    I wonder if texting hasn’t increased over the last 3 years? and given the publication date, perhaps the data the chart is based on is older than 2011? say at least 2 years out of date? So it is possible that texting while driving wasn’t even on the radar when the chart was compiled.

    I use a bluetooth device (hands free) or pull over while talking on the phone. Most of the time. We have pretty strict distracted driving laws here in BC. If you have the phone in your hand, even stopped at a light, you are guilty.

    But of all the items on the list, I suspect “using/dialing cell phone” is the most objectively identifiable and chargeable offense. Yet… 1.5%? Perhaps we are making too much of this?


    It’s late Friday night, I’m catching up on RSS feeds, and I felt compelled to share this trivia with you!

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  2. David

    I’m a little late commenting on this, but apparently my feed reader didn’t like the domain change and silently dropped your feed.

    I’m not sure entirely sure what I think about Greenville’s ban, but a lot of the controversy was around the fact that it wasn’t really a texting ban, but rather a ban on any use of phone and other devices while driving. If I understand part of the concern, the law applies when stopped at a light or possibly parked in a public space (though the GPD denies they will interpret the law that way). It also does not apply to law enforcement and emergency vehicles while performing their regular duties.

    I also agree with Don that what I have heard is that talking on the cell-phone is not nearly as dangerous as texting. If fact, some of the reports I’ve heard indicate that we’re actually getting safer at it because our brains are adapting to driving and talking on the phone.

    My point is not that this is a bad law (again, I’m not sure what to think), but rather that the effectiveness and scope of it are at least in question.