Gentlemen, start your engines:
David Strayer, who studies distracted driving and runs the applied cognition lab at the University of Utah, has found that the likelihood of a crash increases fourfold when someone is talking on a cell phone; if they are texting, they are eight times more likely to crash.
4x and 8x sound like some pretty impressive levels of driving impairment. I wonder how many alcoholic drinks those would equate to? I don’t know, but it sure sounds like it must be in legally drunk territory, possibly even insanely drunk, like 0.20% or more.
So, when does the demonization of “texting while driving” start? The loss of driving privileges, the embarrassing news coverage, the huge legal fees to defend yourself, the PR campaigns and Congressional testimony, the lobbying groups such as MADD, the social pressures through the schools and other places, etc.?
The answer is “pretty soon”, apparently.
‘FocusDriven’ aims to be like MADD
The organization released the study on the same day as its president and CEO, Jane Froetscher, announced with U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood the creation of “FocusDriven” – an advocacy group in the style of Mothers Against Drunk Driving that
will work to fight distracted driving.
“Just as groups like MADD changed attitudes about drunk driving, I believe FocusDriven can help raise awareness and change the way people think about distracted driving,” LaHood said in announcing the group. “Together, I hope we can put an end to this dangerous practice.”
The group will be headed by Jennifer Smith, whose mother was killed by a driver on his cell phone. All five board members have also lost loved ones from cell phone distracted drivers.
Yes, it’s a public safety issue. Yes, people shouldn’t text and drive. Yes, it is a tragedy when people are killed by distracted drivers of any type. We all agree on that.
What concerns me is the tendency to over-reach. Do-gooders start out with good intentions, and then they acquire power, and it goes to their heads. Then politicians and law enforcement smell blood in the water, and decide that our individual liberties aren’t that important after all. So they implement unconstitutional practices like roadside stops to check every driver that passes by.
I’m not so keen on expanded police powers when it infringes on individual liberty. Call me kooky.
And if texters are eight times as likely to crash as normal drivers, they should pay higher insurance rates, and they should get EXACTLY the same degree of social abuse, criminal charges, etc., as the level of alcohol that produces an eight-times-more-likely-to-crash outcome.
There is a “felony DUI”, right? Will we see a “felony DWT”? Roadside stops for texters? Lawyers advertising on TV that they can handle your texting-while-driving case?
Doubtful. And we should ask why that is.
Because impaired driving is impaired driving, whether it’s caused by texting or drinking.