With new distracted driving legislation taking effect today (Sept. 1), there is again a dispute over why government needs to step in and encroach into people’s lives.
Like seatbelts and motorcycle helmets, legislation to keep drivers’ attention on the road is clearly necessary. Almost everyone out there has a story about someone they know being injured in a vehicle crash because a distracted driver was busy with a cellphone, DVD/CD player, noshing, smoking, writing mom, reading, texting, the mutt getting in the way of the steering wheel, playing with a GPS, shaving, flossing, etc…
The thing is, people will not take it upon themselves to avoid all the distractions; rather, they embrace them. Hence the distracted driving legislation.
You’d think common sense would kick in when someone behind the wheel engages in distracted driving behaviour – but common sense is not commonly found.
While cellphones, of course, are a major source of distracted driving, we find it interesting that auto manufacturers themselves are contributing to driver distraction. To watch a TV commercial concerning almost any given vehicle these days, one would think autos are now simply a platform for a computer and all manner of electronica.
Apparently, it would be child abuse to head out on a road trip sans on-board video theatre installation. Worse yet would be to suddenly find yourself, say, in downtown New Orleans without a GPS system to keep you out of the slums or hurricane devastated areas. With systems/buttons dedicated to a multitude of all wheel drive modes, suspension alterations, paddle shifters, cruise control ride heights, stereos, navigation systems, seat adjustments, on-board warning sensors, backup cameras, climate control, satellite radio, heated seats, built-in cellphones, music libraries, nearby vehicle warning systems, etc., etc. – it’s a wonder drivers manage to fire up a unit and actually leave the curb.
Today, vehicle manufacturers seem in a continual battle to outdo one another by incorporating many systems which seem designed to increase driver distractedness.
And all this at a time when studies have shown that simply talking on a cellphone is too much multi-tasking for many drivers.
Seriously, if you’re in the midst of a relationship breakup via cellphone in your car, or being dressed down by your workplace boss, are you really concentrating on not plowing into that approaching vehicle?
When treated casually as an entertainment system, rather than as a two-tonne weapon, your faithful auto can become nothing more than an unguided weapon – in the blink of an eye.
It’s hard to say at this time whether the new legislation will be effective, of course, but the fact that drivers can now be hit with a $172 fine for distracted driving will keep some from engaging in the above activities.
But, just like there are still those who don’t don lifejackets when appropriate (witness the recent Chestermere Lake drowning), or wear helmets when cycling, or carry bearspray in the backcountry, there will be those who won’t quit their distracted activities. These drivers, then, can look upon their newly-delivered tickets as simply another user fee; as do their leadfoot brethren.
Driving is a privilege more so than a right and we’d all appreciate if drivers would approach their transportation with the seriousness needed.