» DUI, Government Rants » Happy National No-Phone Zone Day!

Happy National No-Phone Zone Day!

Every TV channel I saw at the gym this morning seemed to be covering the fact Oprah has declared today “National ‘No-Phone Zone’ Day.” I guess that Oprah has convinced the USDOT, the NHTSA, the GHSA, and a variety of other government entities with acronym names to join her in promoting awareness to end distracted driving. I normally wouldn’t post about something like that, as every day is stop-something day, but my head filled with thoughts as I watched part of a segment showing teenagers trying to drive a golf cart around a course marked with cones while texting. Needless to say, very few cones remained standing at the end, and the exercise supposedly demonstrated the dangers of what I’m going to call DWD, driving while distracted.

I don’t want to hurt Oprah’s feelings, but I think she needs to know she’s wasting her time. People are never going to quit using their phone while they drive, just like some people are never going to quit driving drunk, driving tired, or driving while eating burritos. For decades, we’ve thrown away our civil liberties in the name of safety. We’ve drafted laws providing for vehicle impounds and license suspensions long before drunk drivers even make to to their first court hearing. We’ve put up roadblocks, required ignition interlock devices for all offenders, and added so many mandatory minimum fines, jail terms, and other penalties that you may be better off killing someone with your car sober than being stopped driving with your taillight out while impaired to the slightest degree. None of that seems to be stopping anybody; the DUI clients come in at the same rate now as they did when I first started handling these cases, and I have a tough time believing statistics touting the positive effect of our tyranny when it comes to drunk driving. If the real numbers were that great, MADD wouldn’t have to keep making them up.

Oprah shouldn’t be too sad because I’m going to propose something that might help. Here it is: start teaching people how to drive better while they’re distracted. That’s right. Think back to that girl in the golf cart I saw on TV. Put every driver in a golf cart and make them learn how to text and drive safely. Maybe start simple, like talking on speaker phone while driving, then eventually let people progress to things like texting, folding laundry, doing sudoku puzzles, or whatever else people like to do while they drive. We should know by now that we can’t eradicate DWD, so why not teach people the skills they need to multi-task better? There have to be techniques to enable you to text and drive more safely. Maybe there’s a certain way to hold your phone. Maybe you have to track a certain way with your eyes as you shift your attention between the road and your phone. Personally, I have no clue how best to drive distracted. Someone must know. Why not figure it out and teach people?

I won’t be surprised if I get a lot of angry people telling me how dangerous DWD is. Every one of those people will be hopelessly confusing the issues. DWD probably is dangerous, and people probably shouldn’t do it. That isn’t what matters. What matters is that people do it now and will continue to do it and endanger themselves and others no matter how many laws we pass. Why not make them a little safer when they do what they’re going to do anyway? People also argue that handing out condoms encourages sex, but a lot of people are going to have sex anyway, and wearing a condom prevents the spread of disease. Am I so unreasonable suggesting we take human nature into account in the context of DWD and craft solutions that cater to our natural predispositions rather than try to change who we are and what we like to do?

I’m largely joking here, as I enjoy thinking about people taking an advanced DWD class, maybe doing laps around the Nürburgring texting in a Ferrari while an instructor tells you how to improve your DWD lap time. But my suggestion isn’t just funny. It may have the potential to save millions of lives. I’d be pretty psyched if the government decided not to pass more oppressive driving laws and instead gave those around me the skills and training needed to safely do what they’re going to do anyway.

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2 Responses to "Happy National No-Phone Zone Day!"

  1. Andrew (the other one) says:

    “Until the government forces the carriers to implement a solution”

    Ah yes, more government. That will undoubtedly solve the problem.

  2. Patrick says:

    I agree with your statement that people will never stop texting while driving on their own but the technology exists now to detect a phone is in motion and being used by a driver. The problem is the only way to implement the technical solution is with the support of the cell phone carriers. To this point the carriers have not been willing to implement any solution which automatically prevents the use of the phone. Until the government forces the carriers to implement a solution or they can generate revenue from a technical solution they will not change anything that could potentially limit thier revenue source.

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