Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Bill proposes cellphone restrictions in cars
House to debate hand-devices ban

The Boston Globe
By Matt Viser and Erin Ailworth
January 14, 2008

Txt to: Brandy
Txt fr: Mindy
“OMG! My bff beth jus tol me tj’s in luuuuuuv w/you!!
U go gurl!!!!!!”

If you can interpret the above message, then you know that Mindy wants Brandy to know that Mindy’s best friend forever, Beth, has conveyed the message to Mindy that some (presumably) boy named T.J. is in love with Brandy.

This might be good news. Brandy might have been pursuing T.J. for some time, or there might have been flirtation going on between T.J. and Brandy that T.J. has finally articulated. Brandy might be in love with Bobby and this pursuit by T.J. might be just the thing to get Bobby to wake up. Brandy and T.J. might have been in a relationship previously and Brandy is bummed about the breakup. Or this might not be such good news. Maybe Brandy hates T.J. and does not want him pursuing her and Mindy is just a bitch rubbing it in.

Whatever the story might be, is there anyone who thinks that it is absolutely imperative that Brandy have this information right now? If Mindy is just sitting around her house doing unimportant things like homework or something equally tedious, I have no problem with her texting Brandy. But if Mindy is driving around in her car, I have big problems with her operating her text phone.

If you’re not familiar with text messaging, let me tell you about it. You use the number buttons on your cell phone to spell out your message. For example, if you want to type “cat,” you have to hit the “2” button three times for “c” then hit the “2” button one time for “a” then hit the “8” button one time for “t.” In other words, it’s exactly the type of thing you should not be doing while you’re driving.

Now, the Massachusetts legislature is considering a bill that would ban text messaging while driving. A few other states have already passes such measures. This seems absurd to me. This is not something that should be legislated. This is something that should be IRRELEVANT. There should be no problems with people text messaging while driving. It shouldn’t even hit the legislature’s radar screen.

But there it is. Why can’t people evaluate these kinds of situations for themselves and realize that what they are doing, or want to do, is critically dangerous? How is it that people don’t realize that when you’re driving, your primary activity should be driving?

I define “primary activity” as the situation that, at any given moment, is utilizing the largest percentage of your intellect and senses. When I am driving, I am touching the steering wheel, pedal, and brake; I am listening to the sounds that my vehicle and the vehicles around me are making; and I am watching the car in front of me, the car in front of that one, etc., the landscape in front of me, and each of my mirrors. That’s 3/5 of my senses that I am using. And while I might be thinking about the appointment I’m going to, the work I have to do at the office, or the chores I left behind, my basic brain function is devoted to the successful completion of my trip and the thousands of details that go into driving my vehicle from one point to another.

Therefore, when I’m driving, driving is my primary activity. When I’m sitting at my desk, work is my primary activity. When I’m in a theater, the show that I’m watching is my primary activity. When I’m operating the snow blower, that is my primary activity. There isn’t always a primary activity going on, but when there is, it is important that you be primarily focused on it, especially when people’s lives are involved.

When you are text messaging, not only your hand, but also your eyes, need to be focused on your cell phone screen, and therefore not positioned on the steering wheel and focused on the road. Talking on a cell phone while driving is a different matter. Some people can handle it, many more can’t. Every time now someone cuts me off, or stops short, or veers into another lane, or is driving unusually and unnecessarily slowly, or is driving stupidly in any way, you can bet that the driver is on a cell phone. At least, that has been my experience for quite awhile now.

I don’t get the whole need that some people have to be on their cell phones while driving. I rarely answer the phone while I’m driving; the only time I do is if I’m sitting at a red light or stuck in traffic, or if I’m on a long trip and on a relatively quiet stretch of highway. If I have to make a call, I wait until I’ve arrived at my destination to do so. There is no conversation that I have to have that is so important that it can’t wait. And I can’t imagine what all these people driving around are talking about. There is nothing that can’t wait a little while until you’re able to put all your attention to your conversation, unless maybe you’re a neurosurgeon and you have to talk through a procedure with someone who’s like stuck in the woods with someone who is going to die if the person doesn’t perform the procedure right there and then. But even if that was the case, don’t you think that would be a very good reason to pull the car over, stop driving for awhile, and concentrate on talking the person through it? Okay, maybe the surgeon is en route to another emergency where someone is going to die. I’ll admit that there are very limited cases in which it is critical for someone to be talking on the phone and driving at the same time.

The rest of us, though, should let common sense, and not legislation, be our guide. Wait to text message til you stop driving, and only talk to someone on the phone if it is absolutely critical. I know I’m asking a lot.

1 comment:

Kendra said...

But Dennis, texting is easier on Treo's and the like. Standard keyboard. I use it at red lights for the most part for messages like, "where are you???" (to late husband) and "I'll be late." Think of all that downtime wasted while you sit at stopsigns and late - how much better to be on the phone! :)