Senseless Scribbling of an Idiot #46: No Cell Phones, Texting, Talking or Thinking While Driving

Just like everybody else I am annoyed when I am speeding down the highway and I come behind some randomly slow person holding up progress.  Of course, traffick is such that I can’t go around this person and I’m stuck for about three miles travelling at an absurd 55 miles an hour while this lunatic swerves all over the road blissfully unaware that he has a string of cars lined up behind him.

Let’s play a little game I like to call Old, Asian Or On a Cellphone.

If you selected Cellphone then you win a prize.  Most of the time, the idiot is on a cell phone and for some reason, his brain is too simple to accomplish two tasks at once.  Because of this widespread malady, many state governments have passed laws banning hand-held cell phone usage while driving.  Maryland recently enacted its version of the law on 1 October.  No hand-held cell phone usage or texting while driving.

I am guilty of talking on my cell phone will driving.  I don’t do it often, but I have done it in the past and I probably will in the future.  For my own part,  I don’t usually talk on the phone and drive at night, during bad weather or when the traffick is very heavy.  I also don’t place calls while driving.  I usually answer a call or I’m already on the phone when I get in the car.  I’m guilty.  I know it, but it is what it is.

I would also like to mention that I DO NOT text while driving.  I have texted at stop lights and when traffick has come to a stand still but I do not text when the car is in motion.  I know many people can make the argument about how dangerous it is to talk on the cell phone and drive.  I believe that it is, but I believe that texting and driving is the absolute worst.  It’s right up there with drinking and driving and you all know how I feel about drinking and driving.

For some people talking on the phone and driving is a distraction.  Not so for me and many other people.  We have the ability to multi-task.  Some of us know how to put the best of our focus on the most important task at hand.  To be truthful, when I’m driving and talking on the phone, I barely hear the phone conversation which is why I don’t talk and drive as much as other people do.  I am paying more attention to the road than the person talking and I end up having to be like, “What? What happened?” or the other person can quickly tell that I am not paying attention to them because I’m like, “Yeah.  Uh-huh.  Yup.  Sure.  Yes,” when they are suggesting that they’d like to come punch me in the face.

I’m in agreement with the laws that ban cell phone usage and driving.  Most people just can’t do both.  Yes, there are a few of us that can, but the majority of people just cannot drive and talk at the same time.  I don’t know what it is about having the cell phone in your hand that makes you distracted.  Is it the conversation?  Is it the actual phone up to your head?  I don’t know.  Because if it’s the conversation, do these people also get distracted by conversations with people who are in the car with them?  If it’s the actual phone, do these people also get distracted if they have a cup of coffee in their hand?  I don’t know.

At any rate, I just read an article on MSNBC (not CNN this time) that the Secretary of the Department of Transportation is proposing a plan that would DISABLE cell phones in vehicles that are moving faster than a certain speed (I heard walking speed).  There would be some type of device or software or whatever either in the car or in cell phone towers that would send some kind of jamming signal blocking the phone from being utilised while the car is in motion.

I think this is the stupidest idea I have heard in a very long time.  It’s not that I’m against safety measures to prevent people from doing dumb things, it’s that I think this is not the way to end distracted driving deaths.

There are already laws in place to stop my talking and driving at the same time.  Why not continue to use the laws you already have in place?  If I see a cop, just like I do every other time when I’m doing something dumb, I straighten up my act.  I tell my caller that I’ll call them back in a minute or I put the phone down, or I slow down from my excessive speeding, whatever.

So you want to block cell phone usage in a moving vehicle?  What about my passenger?  She can’t use her cell phone either?  Last week, SF and I went to NY.  She drove and I navigated via my cell phone.  Under this new “law,” she and I would just be driving willy-nilly until we, hopefully, ended up where we needed to be.  Sure, we could always print out a map or whatever, but what about in those instances you come upon where the road is randomly closed or there’s an accident and you need to go around?

To my opponents who say, “What about your GPS?”  I, for one, don’t have GPS because it’s lame, but SF does have GPS.  So does my other friend who uses her GPS INCESSANTLY.  She is more distracted by her GPS than she is by her cell phone.  She doesn’t really talk on her cell phone and drive, but she does fuck around with her radio enough to make me a little perturbed when we get on the road.  She’s one of those chronic channel changers, always flipping through stations and her CDs looking for a certain song.  She is paying more attention to the damn radio than she is to the road.  What about her?

I think you should send a jamming device to stop all radios, CD players and MP3 players in cars so drivers won’t be so distracted.

I also think you should ban children from riding in cars because they are a major distraction.  My same friend who likes to mess with her GPS and radio while driving also has two children that distract while driving.  The two kids are fully of energy and they are always getting into things.  She has to look in the rearview every five seconds to make sure one is “touching” the other or somehow annoying the other kid.  Then when the two start screaming and crying and carrying on, she has to take her eyes off the road so she can carry on right with them.  If one of them has a dropped a toy, she automatically reaches for it, sending the car swerving all over the road.

As a matter of fact, I think we should ban ALL FOREIGN OBJECTS from inside vehicles.  This way, you can’t accidentally drop something and then reach for it and potentially cause an accident.

I also would like to propose a no talking ban in the car.  If you happen to have passengers (which I think we should ban as well) you cannot speak to the passengers in the car just in case you’re one of those people who gets distracted from conversations while driving.  The conversation could potentially become so heated or intriguing that you will stop paying attention to the road and cause an accident.

We also need to consider banning billboards, neon signs on buildings, anything distracting out on the road ways that could make me look elsewhere other than the road in front of me.  It may be a good idea to install some sort of devise to my head so that my head can only look forward.  When the car is put into reverse the devise will release allowing me to reverse the car properly.  Once the car is put back into drive, the devise will clamp on my head again so that my eyes are forward once again.

Ultimately, I envision some kind of mind control devise that will prevent me from thinking about anything other than driving.  I occasionally get lost in my thoughts while driving and go into what I call “auto-pilot,” where you know where you’re going but you’re not really paying attention and you kinda just drive.  This is dangerous.  The mind control device will prevent my mind from wandering into unnecessary thoughts like what I’m going to wear to the holiday party and what did the guy mean by he’ll “call me tomorrow?”  Does he mean tomorrow in guy time or tomorrow in normal people time?  See how distracting that is?

The bottom line is that there are many things the government can implement to keep people from being distracted while driving.  None of them are a good idea.  Like I say for everything, education is the key.  Many people just don’t realise how dangerous texting/cell phone use while driving can be.  Everybody always says, “No, I drive fine.  I can do both.”  Most people really can’t.  It’s the same thing with drinking and driving.  Everybody always claims they can drive better while drunk.  They say that until they get into a serious accident and they kill and maim themselves or someone else.

My proposition:  hit them where it counts.

Right now, in the state of Maryland, for first time offenders found talking/texting while driving, it’s only a $50 fine.  What’s $50?  Barely anything.  That’s enough for me to go to dinner and have a glass of wine.  For some people, okay yeah $50 is a lot of money but it’s really nothing.  You’re going to keep risking it, just like people do when it comes to illegally parking.  Illegal parking isn’t expensive (only until you don’t pay the first notice) and that’s why people keep doing it.

Make it fucking expensive to text/talk and drive.  How about a minimum $500 ticket for first time offense?  Second time, $750.  Third time, $1500.  I bet after that first $500 ticket you will think twice.  After the second ticket worth $750 you will be so pissed that you won’t even bring your damn cell phone in the car with you just in case you give the perception of talking on the phone and driving.

Let’s say you cause a serious accident because you were on the phone and driving.  After the investigation is complete and they’ve found that you were at fault, the penalties should be the same as drunk driving.  Drunk driving in most states is damn expensive.  Most people who drink and drive are people with serious problems.  They know the consequences and yet they do it anyway.  Regular everyday people are deterred from drinking and driving because nobody wants to pay thousands of dollars in court fees and lawyers fees and all that other mess.

I think the government should enforce the laws it already has and create stiff penalties for the violators of those laws.  As much as I would be annoyed that I can’t talk on my phone and drive at the risk of a $500 ticket, I can assure you that I am too cheap to risk it.  Fifty bucks is dinner, $500 is rent money.  And then if you’re like me and you don’t pay the shit when you first get the ticket and it just keeps going up and up and up.  I shudder to think.

Putting some kind of locking mechanism in the car that prevents cell phone usage is stupid and potentially dangerous.  The danger is limited but still there is a threat.  Picture the woman who was kidnapped and thrown into the trunk of her own car.  She was rescued because she still had her cell phone on her and could call 911…. while the car was in motion. With this new locking mechanism, she’d probably be buried in some unmarked grave in the woods somewhere.  Picture the little girl who called 911 after her drunk ass mother went on a joyride with all the kids in the backseat.  The little girl took her mom’s cell phone and called 911….while the car was in motion.  Picture the mother in labour who spoke to paramedics while her husband drove them to the hospital in a snowstorm.  She was on the phone with the paramedics getting instructions on how to handle the difficult labour….while the car was in motion.

In all these cases, the people on the phone wasn’t the driver.  But since the car was in motion none of them would have been able to use their phone if the government has its way.  I recognise that these events are few and far between, but still, I think they shouldn’t be ignored.

Like I said, we should really educate the people about the dangers of driving distracted.  Just like they when it became mandatory to wear a safety belt.  Just like they did when drinking and driving became a serious problem.  You can do the same thing for texting/talking without going to such extreme and lame measures.   And if they don’t get a clue, just fine their asses, make them come to court, and go through some remedial driving training.  I bet then you will see some changes.

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