Saturday, May 12, 2007

keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel

Let's offer some cautious congratulations to the legislators and governor of Washington State -- they have just enacted the nation's first law making it a crime to drive and send text messages on your cellphone, Blackberry, or whatever.

Why? Because it's extremely dangerous, is why. As Governor Christine Gregoire said in signing the law, “Would you read a book or newspaper while you were driving? No! Then why would you text while driving?” Washington also banned the use of cellphones without a headset yesterday.

The "DWT" (driving while texting) law isn't a bad start, but it's flawed. First, the fine is only $101. That's peanuts to your usual high-powered, me-first professional type who would see such a paltry fine as merely a cost of doing business. And second, this law makes DWT a "secondary offense". That means a cop can't pull you over just for DWT, but you can be cited for that if he/she pulls you over for something more serious, like speeding. In a lot of places, seatbelt laws work the same way.

But there is a BIG difference between DWT and not wearing your seatbelt. Your failure to wear your seatbelt does not make you more dangerous to anybody but yourself. But your refusal to leave that god-damn cellphone or Blackberry alone while you drive VASTLY increases the danger you and your vehicle pose to me, you, all the other cars on the road, and any pedestrians on the sidewalk nearby.

I'm serious. A University of Utah researcher has found that driving while talking on a cellphone is MORE DANGEROUS than driving while DRUNK. It increases your odds of an accident by five times compared to driving while NOT using a cellphone, researcher Frank Drews found. And it didn't matter whether the test subjects were using a hand-held cellphone or a hands-free unit.

Logically, DWT would be even MORE dangerous. It equally pulls your mind away from what should be your main task -- driving -- and even more than cellphones, requires that you remove your eye from the road and at least one of your hands from the wheel. DWT and DWC ("driving while cellphone-talking") should be treated like drunk driving. Cops should be able to pull people over if they see you DWT or DWC even if you aren't speeding or doing anything else that warrants a friendly roadside conversation. They should have fines that start in the thousand dollar range, and better yet, being busted for DWT or DWC should put points on your license.

I don't want to be killed in a head-on collision with your porker of an SUV because you're too damn impatient to wait till you're stopped to read that stupid text from your girl/boyfriend about what slasher flick to see tonight. So, if the cellphone rings or the Blackberry buzzes while you're driving, do the right thing and leave it alone till you're parked somewhere. Heed the words of Jim Morrison, and keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel.


Post a Comment

<< Home