Unsafe At Any Speed (With Apologies to Ralph Nader)

Note: This is a reposting of a blog I wrote prior to putting the blog on hiatus.  Unfortunately, the original posts were lost and this is based on a back  up  Word document

We interrupt this blog to bring you a special rant by Phil La Duke …

There is a bill before the Michigan electorate that would ban texting while driving, and I’m against it. It’s not that I believe that driving while texting is a safe thing to do, or a wise thing to do, or a smart thing to do; I just don’t think we need another unenforced law on the books.

Several days ago while making my 40 minute commute home that traverses no fewer than five expressways I was barraged by drivers floating in and out of their lanes, tailgating, illegally changing lanes, speeding and in general driving like fool.  As I passed three different drivers who were impeding traffic by driving 50 mph in the passing lane I noticed that one was dialing on a cell phone, one was reading map quest directions, and one was elderly.  Since none of these drivers was texting, however, none would presumably be subject to penalty under the new law. (I haven’t read the bill, nor am I likely to, but I think it’s safe to say there are no “driving while elderly” provisions in it.)

Let’s be clear, I believe that driving while distracted represents a major threat to highway driving, and the National Safety Council has research to prove it.  But in a world where people routinely and cavalierly run yellow (if not red) lights, cross the double yellow line to illegally turn left, and speed with no fear of enforcement why should we have yet another law for texting.  What’s next a law forbidding us to make omelets while driving?

I once asked a police officer why he sat idly by while 3 people turned left after running a red light and he said that there was no point in writing tickets because the judges would just throw it out.  Interesting.  We stop enforcing the law because 1 in 10 (I’m guessing) would go to court and contest the charges, and another 1 in 10 would have the charges dismissed.  Meanwhile drivers violate the law with no fear of punishment; another law will not change that.

But many of you have seen pieces I’ve written that deride discipline as a means of making sustainable change, so if another law isn’t the answer, what is?  I think if we look at the root causes of this problem it is an issue of indoctrination and training.  My daughter took her driver’s ed course at our local public high school as I did at my local public high school twenty years prior.  It wasn’t a perfect system, but it was a good system Michigan has since privatized driver’s ed and it is no longer available through most public high schools.  Now instead of learning to drive from a public school teacher our young learn to drive from retail outlets that I seriously wouldn’t trust to sell me a lawn mower.

We need to shore up driver’s education requirements and maybe, instead of suspending licenses and gouging those drivers with poor records on insurance rates, we should require those poor drivers to retakc driver’s ed.  If we truly want to improve highway safety we need to do more than pass esoteric laws aimed at addressing the issue of the month.


#driver-safety, #driving-while-distracted, #texting-while-driving, #uninforced-lawas