The daily musings of a substitute teacher in East Central Illinois.

Safe Driving, Cell Phones, and the Law

A friend of mine recently posted an op-ed piece she had written to her newspaper in Texas. It was about Gov. Rick Perry vetoing a Texas law that would make it illegal to text while driving. Illinois passed a similar law about a year or so ago. My response then was the same as it is now. I shared this with Sarah, and thought I’d share it here, because it touches on issues of driver education and general safety issues that need to be taught at an early age, anyway. (Nice justification for posting this on an education blog, eh?)

While I understand the rationale behind the driving-while-texting laws, the small government part of me keeps saying, “But it is already illegal! It is called reckless driving!” If you are driving an automobile and an accident occurs because you were distracted, whether by talking on a cell phone, texting, changing a radio station, reading the newspaper, putting on make-up, changing your clothes, fiddling with an mp3 player, or anything else, you will be faulted for the accident. You can also get ticketed for reckless driving if you are swerving all over the road, even if you don’t cause an accident.

Illinois passed DWT legislation about a year ago and, honestly, I haven’t heard anything to indicate there have been fewer accidents. And I still see people texting and doing other ridiculous things. (All of the examples I listed above are things I have seen people do while driving.)

So, on the one hand, I agree that driving while texting (or anything else that distracts you from driving) is a bad idea but, on the other hand, I don’t think the people who do it will be swayed by the laws. After all, how does an officer even prove someone was texting? Look at their phone to see if there is a message in drafts or just sent? The motions required to write a text are nearly identical to those needed to dial a number, but it isn’t against the law to make phone calls (at least not here). I guess that, at the end, these laws are much more symbolic than anything, but I still have my doubts about whether or not they are effective.

I’ll ask the same thing that Sarah asked: Do you agree or disagree? Please explain but remember to play nice!


2 responses

  1. The problem I have with such laws is that they do not PREVENT reckless driving behaviors. If we cannot agree as a society that killing a murderer will deter other murderers, what possible impact can such laws have on drivers, especially the silly ones who let themselves be distracted? Because we live in a democratic society, tragedy can often motivate private citizens to get involved to encourage the writing and passing of various laws, but these have a knee-jerk quality and do not seem really to solve the problem. The only things such laws allow are 1.) possible law enforcement stops if the driver is witnessed driving recklessly; and 2.) additional punishment for offenders who cause an accident or, heaven forbid, injury or death. By then, it’s too late really to protect the victims, so what was the point?

    Possible alternative solutions would involve huge government intervention into privacy–I can imagine more cameras on the street to identify and automatically ticket reckless drivers, or laws similar to airline restrictions that restrict the items and activities that would be legal inside a moving vehicle–and no one wants that. Perhaps the only real solution is a huge nationwide education program designed to increase awareness. Possession of cell phones or other devices could require special training at the DMV, or even a tax to help cover the costs of accidents caused by inattention. The Inattention Tax–has a nice ring to it. Government intervention can happen on a number of levels to ameliorate the problem, but it will never go away. Why?

    Wait for it…….


    June 20, 2011 at 1:59 pm

  2. Ginny

    I think laws like this just don’t work because everybody thinks that they are an exception. “Sure, everyone else gets distracted, but I can text while paying attention.” Sometimes I think everybody should have drive in a driving simulator as a non-lethal way of showing just how much of an exception they aren’t. I used to text while I drove, but all it took was one close call to show me that I wasn’t an exception. I’m lucky it was only a close call.

    June 20, 2011 at 4:36 pm

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