Jail time for texting drivers

The life you save may be your own… or possibly mine. Right now, to be honest about it, I am more interested in mine. And mine is regularly at risk from texting drivers.

Today’s front page story by Matt Richtel in the New York Times, with accompanying photo of large driver of large vehicle, small dog in his lap and intricate computer screen to the right of his steering wheel, raises more fear in me than local jihadidsts and prospective death panels. The latter are abstract &/or untrue, the former is real. And preventable. “We are supposed to pull over,” trucker Kurt Long says blithely, “but nobody does.” Richtel also quotes American Trucking Association spokesman Clayton Boyce as saying that truckers “… are not reading the screen every second.” Why is this somehow not comforting?

I concede that time is critical to drivers of large vehicles. But at some point the public good ought to prevail. Those of us over 60 are admittedly better able to remember when it was possible to live without texting (or even cell-phoning) while driving and thus better able to think it could be possible again, at least on a limited basis. We are also able to remember when it was convenient for some people to drive around very drunk and occasionally kill people, before laws were passed to limit that activity. Driving a big rig while texting may seem more important than driving blotto after a party, but the dead are just as dead. Somebody has got to get the attention of our legislators — somebody not indebted to the very powerful trucking industry lobby — so that new laws are enacted.

Walking, whenever time and public transportation permit, is my mobility of choice. On foot, I regularly notice the drivers who don’t notice me because they are too busy texting or talking on cell phones. Pedestrians learn to do this. But if you’re driving down the highway and a large vehicle is barreling toward you or near you, propelled by a minimally-attentive driver, you don’t stand a chance. And I say, send them to jail.

Beloved members of my immediate circle of family and friends have been known to text while driving. I still say, send them to jail. I’ll come visit.

13 responses

  1. After reading a number of your posts over the last month or so, as well as your latest piece, I’m forced to wonder:

    Is there any manner of big-government nannying that you don’t support?

    All of you “there oughta be a law” types have turned a once great nation into a whimpering, over-litigious panty-wetting asshole-fest where everybody’s a criminal.

    Where do yo draw the line? Isn’t having 25% of the world’s prisoners with only 5% of the world’s population enough? You want to lock more people up – not for something they actually have done – but for something that *might* happen should they engage in an activity you find “unsafe”?

    Sickening.

  2. Dear Uncertain, No, I don’t want to lock anyone up for something that might happen; I only support making this indefensible action illegal in hopes that law-abiding people would then quit doing what is a stupid and often lethal thing. I also support immediate or early release of most people now jailed for victimless crimes, and vigorously oppose CA’s 3-strikes law. I am saddened by our hair-trigger litigiousness, in support of mandated arbitration in most cases instead, and sorry I made you sick. I was joking about wanting to visit my kinfolks in jail.

  3. Yo, “Uncertain” … according to studies on the National Safety Council (they have over 50 of them), and I quote: “[TALKING on a cell phone] contributes to 6 percent of crashes, which equates to 636,000 crashes, 330,000 injuries, 12,000 serious injuries and 2,600 deaths each year. The study also put the annual financial toll of cell phone-related crashes at $43 billion.”

    If that were about the swine flu killing 2,600 people and costing us $3 BILLION a year, there would be a public outcry like none heard before to stop the carnage.

    And now you want to allow texting and typing on a keyboard or punching a screen by truckers riding (as opposed to driving) in a 90,000+ pound vehicle at 65 MPH while talking on their CB radio and cell phone? Should they be allowed to eat a Big Mac and switch DVD’s at the same time, too?

    And somehow, this makes sense to someone?

    It’s called a “driver’s license,” not a “texting/talking/keyboarding/pretend-to-be-driving license.”

    Hang up. Drive. It’s a responsibility you signed up for.

  4. Bless your heart, Crashtestdummy, you must be a pedestrian. Thanks for the affirmation that we really don’t need a texting/talking/keyboarding/pretend-to-be-driving population on the road.

    • Sorry, walking is something my feet won’t handle much of! I do cross a street when forced, of course. But I do drive a motorcycle – in Ohio, 12 months of the year. I’ll spare you ALL the statistics, but 2 out of 3 dead bikers will be killed because someone turned left or pulled out in front of them (NHTSA Statistics).

      I video every ride to and from work (30 miles, 1 hour, one way). I have video of people texting, eating, talking on cell phones – you name it – and if they saw the video not knowing it was them, they’d wonder why “this person” was allowed to drive! I also have pictures of people not seeing me and pulling in front of me – and close-ups of their car doors or bumpers.

      By the way: I drive a 1,000 pound yellow motorcycle with a headlight modulator that can be seen for MILES, and yet people don’t see me.

      We don’t need more people exercising their right to be stupid, inconsiderate and irresponsible.

      • I have (in my pedestrian days) a LOT of issues with cyclists whizzing around corners as I’m about to cross the street, but have never had a problem with bikers. Bikers even enjoyed (though not as much as I did) the newspaper special I wrote on Bike Week in Daytona in a former life. I think bikers pose little threat to others, as they rarely talk on phones or text, but do pose threats to themselves when they’re having too much fun. Wear your helmet.

      • OMGarsh! For a good laugh, followed by a heavy sigh of disbelief…

        Take a tour of a good-sized motorcycle pieces-parts place (e.g. Iron Pony in Columbus, OH – they’re on the Web). You’ll find one of the absolute dummest, positively most DEADLY things you’ll see in your life! You can now buy motorcycle helmets with built-in Bluetooth so you can connect to your cell phone and/or PDA.

        Yeah, bikers talking on cell phones heading towards other drivers in cars on cell phones.

        Talk about y’er poetic justice!

        Sorry, I digress. I’ll hang-up, now… I need two hands to make this left turn onto the freeway. D’OH!

  5. In 2007 a semi-truck smashed into the back of a stopped minivan in Southern California carrying three children under the age of four. One of those children was sitting in the far back seat of the minivan which was violently shoved into the row of seats in front of it where the other two kids were sitting. All three died in front of their mother, who had the horrible misfortune of getting stuck in traffic on the southbound I-5 on the wrong day, at the wrong time, in the wrong place.

    The semi driver wasn’t drunk or high. He simply wasn’t paying attention.

    Someone ought to see the pictures of the wreck before they decide whether or not it’s in the public’s best interest to let big rig drivers text while driving.

    • Having just watched the PSA from the UK I don’t think I could handle another image. Is it too late to return to, or somehow recreate the days when driving involved both hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road? Seems like such a simple thing to ask.

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    • Thanks a million for dropping by, and for the affirmation. I spend a LOT of time in frustration about blog sites both here and on Huffington Post (my other fran-moreland-johns site) so it is really heartening to find someone enjoys it and found it worth the time.

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