Texting, Driving, and Technical Laziness
Two stories have recently come to my attention. Both supposedly involve texting and driving. One was in Guam, the other in Ohio. The real story is that there is a simple technical fix to this problem, and no one is seriously discussing the obvious.
In the Guam case, a slew of charges were originally thrown at the driver of a car that hit a cyclist, including running a red light and texting and driving. The driver plead down to a mere negligent driving, and was given a year in jail. If the driver's story is true, he might be guilty of nothing more than speeding; but was afraid to risk a trial. If the original charges were true, he was guilty of much more. Though it seems, even from a cursory read, that the police did not have the evidence and were inflating the charges. The victim's wife did not think that the driver belonged in jail, which speaks to the weakness of the case.
In the Guam case, the chief complaint seems to have been that the driver was going roughly 10 mph above the speed limit. Even the original claim of negligence is suspect, because the driver said he was looking at the intersection to see if cars were coming his way, while another driver in a nearby car said the sun was in his eyes, so a claim of negligence would be hard to press. It could only be stated that between the rising sun and a busy intersection, the driver was paying attention but he could not pay attention to everything all at once, thus making the claim of negligence untenable.
Whichever view one takes, the issue of texting while driving did not come up at sentencing.
In Ohio, a more serious case has come up of a woman who supposedly was texting and driving when she ran over a fog line at the side of the road, and killed two teenagers. In typical police fashion, she was charged with redundant charges. Involuntary manslaughter, vehicular homicide, and vehicular assault. One would think the last charge is unnecessary, as a vehicular homicide would by definition be an assault.
She is charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter, two counts of vehicular homicide, one counts of tampering with records, one count of vehicular assault, one count of driving while texting and one count of marked lane violation. -- Fox 8
Whatever her guilt, the common prosecutorial practice of charging her with more than one offense for the same crime is not what our Founding Fathers intended. It is a tactic to force a plea bargain.
Texting and driving has some frightening statistics behind it.
The National Safety Council reports that cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year.
Nearly 330,000 injuries occur each year from accidents caused by texting while driving.
1 out of every 4 car accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving.
Texting while driving is 6x more likely to cause an accident than driving drunk. -- Edgar Synder & Associates
This is no minor issue. I have friends who use cellphones while driving all the time. When driving, I regularly see adjacent drivers texting.
Me?! For the past 12 years, even before the iPhone came out, I made it a practice that if my cellphone rang as I was driving, I would pull over to the side of the road – a safety practice which often got me harassed by cops. “Why are you stopping on the side of the road?”
A few decades ago, as the public became more aware, and less forgiving, of drunk driving, there was a call to put electronic devices in cars where numbers would flash in front of the driver on a small screen, and the driver would have a limited amount of time to punch the numbers in on a keyboard, in order for the car to start. Sober drivers could easily handle the quiz. Drunks would be unable to complete the task, and would have to wait 15 minutes before trying again, at which time it was hoped they would have sobered up a bit.
This remarkably reasonable idea was shot down under the excuse that it would be unfair to minorities who could not read. There were other ways of addressing the problem, but they also seemed to be shot down for ridiculous reasons.
This would not be the case with texting and driving.
All that would have to be done is to install a sensor in the car. If there is only one person in car, the driver's seat, then a signal would turn off the cellphone's texting capabilities while the car is moving. The sensor could be part of the present sensors in the car which detect whether or not passengers are wearing seat belts.
It would only apply if there was only one person in the car and in the driver's seat. If there were two people, it would be assumed the second person was in possession of the smartphone, and there would be no blockage of signal.
This is all but passive. It would only require a modified chip be put in the seats, and a simple algorithm be set up.
If (car is moving) and (only driver seat is occupied) then (cellphone jammer is turned on).
The fix could be installed for under $100. The jammer would only kill texting options, but allow for gps tracking and directions so that Uber Drivers could find their way around with help from Siri.
It does not require any action on the part of the driver, and it is racially neutral.
With all the safety regulations required to be on cars, this one is relatively cheap. There is no reason that it could not be installed in new cars within a year. There is no reason that Apple and Samsung could not issue updates to their operating systems to allow for this. There is no reason that insurance companies could not offer discounts to those who retro install it on older cars.
Texting and driving is a rather ubiquitous crime. Anyone who drives along the highway knows how common it is -- far more common than drunk or drugged driving.
This fix is easy, and it could be implemented rather fast. I am amazed that no one has thought of it before. This would make more sense that much of the unnecessary regulation that comes out of Washington.
Mike Konrad is the pen name of an American who wishes he had availed himself more fully of the opportunity to learn Spanish in high school, lo those many decades ago. He writes on the Arabs of South America at http://latinarabia.com. He also just started a website about small computers at http://minireplacement.com.