Daily Archives: September 30, 2009

Texting: Does Common Sense Apply Here?

Wow. Nothing like a cold drizzle in the early morning to freeze the leg muscles. No hope for a run outside in Northeast Ohio at 5 a.m. today.  A year ago I would have tried it even with the 50 degree temp, rain and wind. No more. So I chased the belt on the treadmill — and watched TV and listened to the talking heads via earphones.

I never listen to music, podcasts and so on while running outside.

First, I enjoy the quiet and alone time. I like thinking about things — and often outlining on my mental computer what I am going to write about later in the day. Second, I recognize how vulnerable I am — out on the road by myself, usually in the dark and with only a few feet of concrete separating me from cars and trucks that generally come out on top in collisions with humans. I would like to believe that all drivers are paying total attention all the time. Nah. A lot of time I can see it in their eyes — that startled look that says “oops, my bad” as they turn quickly out of the way. WTF.

This won’t be a surprise. I’m not a fan of drivers using cell phones — or texting while they should be concentrating on driving. Full disclosure: I’m tethered to my BlackBerry and tempted to look at it every time I hear it buzz. But I won’t do that while driving. A year or so ago I was driving to Kent and tried to reply to a text message. OMG. For a minute or more I wasn’t even looking at the road. Scary? Yeah. And lucky that a car or truck didn’t stop in front of me. Or I didn’t take a detour through a guardrail or retaining wall.

Yet I’m somewhat amused that the federal government via the Department of Transportation is holding a Distracted Drivers Summit today and tomorrow to consider the dangers of texting while driving — and to see how to best proceed in terms of national legislation aimed at banning it.

I don’t believe that people should talk on cell phones or send or receive text messages while driving. It’s dangerous. (See NYT editorial, “Texting to Death.”) People who do it are putting themselves and their families at risk — and also others.

I also recognize that truckers and others (police?) have some legitimate points about retaining the use of computers while driving. Still, public opinion appears to be firmly behind measures that would ban text messaging while driving. And this will happen eventually — some states and local communities have already passed regulations.

Still, do we need a federal government summit on this? Nah. Common sense should prevail. But I guess that is in short supply these days along with plenty of other things. (Wonder if there is a link between lack of civility and lack of common sense? I digress.)

So here come the feds. Here’s from Bob Barr, former congressman and Libertarian Party nominee for president, “Feds hold ‘silly summit’ in Washington“:

The cost of the conference aside, and with all due respect to our Secretary of Transportation, this is absolute nonsense.  “Driving distractions” have nothing — or should have nothing — to do with the federal government; and even if they did, why is it necessary to have a two-day summit to talk about them?

It is, I think, common knowledge that people are distracted by all manner of things while driving.  They apply make-up, they eat, they drink, they talk to passengers, they bounce to music, they talk on the phone, they text, they read newspapers, their eyes wander, they use ”hand-held electronic devices.”  In other words, if something can be done, someone will find a way to do it while driving.  We also know that driving-while-distracted can cause accidents; sometimes deadly ones.  Do we really need a federal “summit” to learn these things; things that every person who has studied for and obtained a driver’s license already knows?

Are the solutions to the problem of driving-while-distracted so mysterious and ill-defined that two full days of time of hundreds of government and government-related officials must be consumed pondering such things?

Oh, Bob. What else could hundreds of government and government-related officials have to do today and tomorrow? Let’s see: two wars, health care reform, Great Recession. Sigh.

Anyway, if anyone reading this is attending the summit, could you text me and let me know how it is going?

I promise I won’t reply if driving.