Driving under the influence of technology

Once upon a time, there was this princess who wanted to visit the far reaches of her kingdom. She liked to travel, but did not like the horses, so she asked the blacksmith to fashion for her a special carriage that did not need horses. The blacksmith was very smart and talented, so he developed this wagon and called it an automobile. The princess was so impressed with this invention that she phoned all her closest BFFs and posted to her Facebook wall about her new mode of transportation.

The blacksmith told the princess and the King that since this was a horseless carriage, it did not have any means of steering itself and the princess would have to pay close attention to the road and other people and wagons on the road so as to avoid getting into an accident. The princess was all “like whatever.”

She jumped into her new vehicle and started it up. Just as soon as she was out on the road, she phoned her bff Jill and began to tell her how much fun she was having. So engaged in her conversation was she, that she failed to notice the horse-drawn cart that was merging into her lane. She ran into the back of the cart sending chickens and feathers flying all over.

Meanwhile, in another part of the kingdom, an evil witch was concocting a vile plan to take over the kingdom. When she heard about the princess’ accident, she immediately called the media and began to convince them that cell phones were to blame for the accident and that the princess should be jailed for causing the accident by talking on a phone while driving. The unwitting media quickly picked up the story and ran with it (it was a slow news day) and soon the kingdom was crying from the rooftops about the evil practice of driving with a cell phone.

The princess was sentenced to 30 days in jail and the king was beheaded. The evil witch became queen and began a reign of terror which lasts to this day.

Now, this is admittedly a silly story but with the case of the young woman who got 30 days for getting into an accident AFTER hanging up her cell phone, it begs the question: why now?

Knee-jerk liberal politicians have coined the phrase “distracted driving” as a new legal distinction so that new punishments can be doled out to those who commit this egregious crime. They call it DD to deflect from their real target which is cell phones.

Cell phone use has continued to grow as newer cooler handsets and features are released. And since the phones are so ultra portable, it is easy to use them in a car where we spend a great deal of time. Businessmen can conduct teleconferences while on the road, kids can check in with parents and vice versa, spouses can keep in contact with each other. There are many useful purposes for cell phones.

People resent those who talk on phones in public, however. No one really minds walking behind two or three people who are engaged in a conversation. No one thinks it is odd to talk to a person next to you. But have that same conversation on a cell phone while walking alone and people get angry. Have that conversation in a restaurant and people get downright mad.

I am on board with those who don’t like people who get so absorbed in their phone conversation that they stop paying attention to the road. Get them off the road and out of my way, I say. But the problem is not the phone. It really isn’t. It is the driver. It always comes back to the driver. The phone is just the distraction du jor.

There are many things that can distract a driver, not the least of which is a passenger. Think about how much brain power is used holding a conversation with someone sitting next to you, or even worse, in the back seat. But no one is screaming to ban passengers, are they. Or are they? Perhaps that is next.

Phones are not evil. They do not cause accidents. I will grant that someone with a phone held up to their face is not able to turn as readily as someone who is not holding a phone, but the attention diversion is no worse than a conversation with another passenger. In fact, I would posit that it is less of a distraction than a passenger, since a driver would be tempted to turn and look at a passenger with whom he or she was conversing.

This is all different than texting. There is no place for texting while driving. Heck texting and walking is a big challenge. No, if you need to text, stop the car, put it in park and text away. Once you hit send, then start driving again. But when the reply comes back, get off the road again.

There are alternatives to the driving with talking problem: mandate hands-free sets, or Bluetooth equipped cars. Do not ban phones all together. Next thing you know we will be driving single seat cars with blinders.

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Filed under Humor, Politics

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