Well, David at the FredCast on his 1/28/10 expanded on the topic of “safe operation” while attention deprived.
Specifically, we’re talking about cell phones, and the idea of legislation to outlaw use of cell phones while driving. David’s perspective is that we should NOT outlaw cell phone use – at least not hands-free cell phone use.
In general David, I agree with you. There are things that might not be wise, and might be slightly less safe than another way of doing things, but at what point do we stop short of legislating every detail of our life?
I do think that cell phone use – whether hands free or not – does reduce the attention that we are giving to driving. I think this happens to everyone – drivers both good and bad, skilled and less skilled. I think that getting into an argument about the degree to which this happens is frankly a pissing contest where nobody wins and everybody gets wet…
I think that it is very reasonable to expect that people give the appropriate amount of attention to the road, as required by the conditions at hand. Failure to do this should be an offense for which the driver is ticketed. There are many things that can take our attention from the road, as you so rightly point out, and the bottom line is that when someone is driving with less attention to the road than they should have, they should be ticketed.
Of course, this can be a sticky wicket, can’t it? Who gets to make that judgement call? We have entrusted the local and state police with that authority, and while I am not always in agreement with the calls that they make, the bottom line is that we need to accept somebody’s authority, right?
The reason for the lack of attention is not really important, is it? You are essentially driving while impaired, and most states have laws governing this. I can’t tell you how many times I shake my head at someone who is driving along in the left lane of a multi-lane highway, completely oblivious to the traffic jam that they are creating by not adhering to the rules of the road and staying right except to pass. I wish these people would receive tickets to help them remember to pay attention. Or the soccer mom distracted by the kids in the back seat, or the animated conversation occurring on both sides of a front seat.
While driving down the road, it’s easy to pick out the cars that are being operated by folks who are distracted by any number of things – I personally would like it a lot if these folks were pulled over and ticketed more often. If the source of their distraction was a cell phone – as it would often be – then perhaps the ticket will help them make better judgement calls next time.
And after all, it really is “driving while distracted” that we are concerned with, right?
I just get really tired of attempts to legislate every little piece of our lives. It’s about responsibility really, and our responsibility to our fellow drivers on the road. When we fail to take that responsibility seriously and allow ourselves to become distracted beyond the point of reasonableness for the situation, then we should have our hands slapped for behaving irresponsibly.
I go back to the discussion of driving in bad conditions. An hour or two of driving on icy roads in white-out conditions will flat-out exhaust me. There’s no way I would have ANY distractions in the truck under those conditions. However, to try and maintain that level of attention over an 8 hour drive would be absurd. We NEED distractions – we need to balance our mind out as we drive, right? And, part of being a responsible driver is knowing where that balance is for any set of circumstances.