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Driving While Thoughtless is a crime against anyone inconvenienced, injured or killed.

Almost by definition, the best and brightest in our society do not make it to political office at state or national levels. Unsurprisingly, they don’t grok the whole problem. Instead they attempt solve one small part of it, then watch in puzzlement while their new legislation fails to achieve the desired results.

People who grossly overestimate their ability to multi-task including driving as one of those tasks has long been a peeve of mine. They are universally WRONG.

You know it too. You get all frosted at the driver who is weaving, speeding, slowing, stopping inappropriately, failing to respect the traffic signal (red or green), backing up a long line of traffic and such. Then you discover they are texting, talking on a cell phone, reading a book, putting on makeup, etcetera.

I wrote about it November 2012 in unintended consequences: texting ban.

Idaho legislative geniuses recently joined those of many other states to ban texting while driving. It’s a perfect example of government applying simplistic solutions to complex problems.
Problem: too many drivers are thinking about something else while driving.

Solution: make a law against texting while driving.

Result: more crashes like this one that killed a 6-month-old-boy and changed many lives forever… or this recent one in Meridian.

I see it every time I drive now. Drivers with one hand on the wheel, glancing up occasionally from the base of their steering wheel to get a snapshot view of what is going on directly ahead of them. Then quickly returning their attention to the important business of texting while hiding their cell phone from those who might write them a citation for the infraction.

Well, you all can set that stuff aside as the ravings of a died-in-the-wool driving enthusiast and political wacko. However, the University of Utah and AAA recently released a report validating my findings.

With auto manufacturers and the after-market competing for consumer dollars by offering newer, trickier toys for drivers to play with instead of driving AAA was understandably concerned about rising insurance claims and losing customers to the funeral industry. So they funded a study… with a teeny-bit more credibility than mine.

Hands-Free Talking, Texting are Unsafe

The research found that as mental workload and distractions increase, reaction time slows, brain function is compromised, drivers scan the road less and miss visual cues, potentially resulting in drivers not seeing items right in front of them including stop signs and pedestrians.

Unfortunately it turns out that the government-school-graduates AAA promotes to the top aren’t necessarily a ton brighter than the ones in the legislative chambers. Their executive suite has the data handed to them in summary, text and data formats, then proceeds to draw the wrong conclusion.

“There is a looming public safety crisis ahead with the future proliferation of these in-vehicle technologies,” said AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet. “It’s time to consider limiting new and potentially dangerous mental distractions built into cars, particularly with the common public misperception that hands-free means risk-free.”

I’ll refer back to my 2012 article:

It is widely understood that distracted driving is dangerous. People whose minds are not on the task of controlling 3,000 pounds of steel moving at ten times the speed a human athlete can run are putting everyone around them at risk. This is called threatening or dangerous behavior. It is all the same to me if they are playing games with a loaded gun in a crowded room, or if they are driving with their mind in another world.

Careless driving has been unlawful for much longer than cell phones have been available. Adding new specialized laws banning each and every possible distraction is nonsense. Studies and analysis from all over the world (one example) finds talking, even “hands free” on a cell phone is as bad as drunk driving. It doesn’t matter where your hands are, but where your mind is while threats can be counted on to come at you without warning and in unexpected ways.

Thinking and personal responsibility should be mandatory. Figuring safety can be found carrying around a legislative guidebook or having a passenger reciting applicable laws is insanity.

In case I didn’t make myself clear enough, Driving While Thoughtless is the crime. You hurt somebody, you are responsible for doing whatever you can to make up for the damages. It does not matter if your weapon was a car, bat, fire, falling a tree … or whether you were senile, intoxicated, texting or turned around wiping drool off your toddler’s mouth. Results are all the proof needed.

What doesn’t work is having Mommy, Daddy, government or the insurance company pay for your mistakes. Personal responsibility is not learned in a college ethics class, or at least not retained any more than you can still solve algebraic equations or remember who sacked Rome.

Real world consequences for irresponsible behavior should be part of our culture from cradle to grave. That is the only way a society will get less of it.

I, by the way, do not talk on my cell phone while driving. If mine rings, I hand it to my passenger to answer and converse on, or I return the call I missed later when I’m not in full charge of a potentially lethal weapon. Similarly, if when chatting on my phone I discover my partner is attempting to simultaneously drive, I politely end the conversation.

In the good-old-days, patrol cars had a driver and a radio operator. We know full well that nothing taught in the police academies nor in donning the uniform makes them any better at driving while distracted than the rest of us. In fact at 16th place, police work falls just below below taxi drivers in work-related fatalities. Of the police deaths, 56% are from traffic accidents not related to high-speed chases. Note that #15 are the professional distracted drivers using their cell phones and GPS.

Friends don’t let friends drive thoughtlessly.