Cell Phones, Driving and stupid laws. Before you prejudge this blog or read beyond this first paragraph, promise that before you comment you read all the way through and hear all that I have to say.
I have sat on city council and struggled with doing what is right versus doing what will help me get elected. I have been told that the blood of the children will be on my hands because I wouldn't vote to install a stop sign that didn't and doesn't fit Texas' transportation code, so I can rightfully say, I understand the process.
I currently sit on the Bicycle, Mobility, Advisory Committee or BMAC. We advise our MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization) and sitting next not me frequently is a representative from Bike Texas and we have many conversations on what constitutes smart laws that promote safer streets, this is not an easy issue.
Distracted driving kills other driving, cyclists and pedestrians and we need laws that punish those driving while be distracted. What we don't need are stupid laws passed with the intent to pacify activists and those making the most noise. We have some new laws in Texas that make it illegal to touch your phone or GPS while in the drivers seat, unless of course you are law enforcement, Fire or EMS. Which makes sense, because none of those groups ever drive at high speeds or have to negotiate difficult traffic situations. So there is already a precedent for exceptions for professionals.
I have been driving with a cell phone for 25 years. If you have been on the phone with me for any length of time you have witnessed me totally ignoring my phone and focusing on the needs of driving. In the pre-hands free days, I would even drop my phone and have to yell that I would call the person back. I get that driving comes first along with many other professionals that have successfully used their phones while driving over the last many decades, what I don't get are laws that cater to the lowest common denominator.
As a kid, we were not allowed to even have the radio on for the first few years of driving. We were taught to be focused on driving. There are many of us that work from our cars and spend a great deal of time in our cars and these laws are like the 55 MPH speed limits, forcing good people to lose respect for their government as simple solutions are applied to complex problems. I used to hold my phone up so that my field of vision still could see what I needed to see. Now, you can see people looking down at their laps all the time. One of my local laws requires the police to see the phone in driver’s hand, SERIOUSLY? So I could be 5' out of my lane, but if the cop can't see me touching my phone... no foul. These laws encourage people to take bigger chances and don’t solve the main issue.
What about a law that punishes distracted driving. That would deal with those eating, changing, applying makeup, sharing music with an entire county (not able to hear fire truck with driver on cell phone behind them), dealing with children and not paying attention to where their car is headed and who may be on side of street walking or riding. What about for those whose jobs rely on using cell phone, that they have a special test where they are tested while using the phone. I am just asking for common sense, that is all. Making it illegal for me to touch my phone is inane. My car has a joystick and multi-function display, is that going to be illegal someday? Will I not be able to set my heat or AC while driving?
I volunteered when Oprah was on her soapbox from the back of her limo and I'll do it again to take these tests that they have these kids taking and prove that when one's priorities are correct, cellphones are not what needs to be regulated, but stop legislating to the lowest common denominator. Laws need to make sense to all they govern. That is why some states don't let kids drive with others in the car or at night until they have some experience. It isn't against the law to stay out after street lights come on even though that would make things easier for parents everywhere, because it doesn't make sense for anyone older that ten, saying I can't touch my phone in my car makes no more sense for someone who has done it safely for over 25 years.
I hope our PACs are paying attention to some of these simpleton laws and are going to help us with legislation that makes sense and actually work to keep our streets safer.