Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is a clear threat to public safety.  Currently in the Commonwealth there is a movement to address this issue legally by banning the use of cell phones by the operator of a vehicle unless they are hands free.

For drivers over the age of 18, improper use of a cell phone while driving is currently a civil offense, with no insurance surcharge.  One hand must always be on the wheel, and the phone cannot interfere with safe driving.  (source http://www.massrmv.com/SafeDrivingLawSummary.aspx).

Have you ever eaten while driving?  Have you ever drunk a cup of coffee? Unless you’re *very* careful, you will lose eye contact with the road while drinking or placing your coffee into your cup holder.

Have you ever fiddled with the radio?  Chances are pretty good you’ve taken your eyes off the road then too.  Even if it’s just for a moment, there is a greater risk in the moments you are not intently concentrating on the road.

And yet we would not consider making it illegal to drink coffee while driving -- Massachusetts would grind to a halt!   We leave it to the driver’s judgement to decide how to drink coffee safely in the confines of a car.  Why can we not do the same thing with cell phones?

Technology frequently outpaces the law.  Today we’re talking about cell phones distracting drivers, tomorrow it’s super watches.  In 20 years you’ll have a projection screen on your windshield.  The technology is not the issue, it’s the ACTION we find dangerous.  Distracted driving should be illegal, whether the distraction is food, drink, phone, talk radio, children or even a spouse.  We should punish those who drive recklessly.

And there are already laws for that.  We need to stop thinking of the legal system as the way to address an issue that should fundamentally be obvious as “the right thing to do.”  We should not criminalize behavior that is possibly reckless, just because we want people to wreck less.

There are many drivers in Massachusetts who are responsible in the way they use cell phones while driving.  They should not lose their right to answer a phone because of a dangerous drivers who don’t.  And we have laws in place already to punish the dangerous.

We trivialize the importance of laws when we use them superfluously.