By on August 10, 2013

Werner Herzog directed the surprisingly good Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans a few years back, and now he’s put his not inconsiderable talents to work making a film about the consequences of distracted driving.

Titled “From One Second To The Next”, the movie was funded by AT&T and is intended to — well, not to prevent texting and driving, because some major percentage of AT&T’s revenue depends on people feeling like they need to stay connected to other mobile-device users at all times, but at least to shame people who cause accidents while they’re doing it. Oddly enough, my son and I witnessed a distracted-driving accident on Thursday while heading home from his school. A woman in her fifties simply drove into the back of a stopped car, waiting to hit her brakes until she was perhaps fifty feet away. I saw that it was going to happen for at least a second and a half before it did, even though the clone and I were busy singing the harmony parts to “Ragged Wood” by the Fleet Foxes. The perpetrator wasn’t texting or chatting or surfing the web; she was just an old woman with poor depth perception and no expectation that there would be stopped cars ahead of her. The impact was pretty hard, and the victim was an elderly guy in a late-Nineties LeSabre. Had I not had my son with me, I’d have tried to assist after the fact, but there was no safe place to stash him at the time.

So now you have an anecdote that suggests that texting and driving isn’t responsible for all the accidents out there, which you can add to the four anecdotes in the movie. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that “distracted driving” is completely insignificant. However, there’s nothing to suggest that it deserves the current cause celebre status it has in the media. The cynic in me thinks it’s yet another battlefield of our little American Kulturkampf. Distracted driving is primarily a middle-class affliction. Poor people don’t own cars, the urban elite take public transportation, and the country’s tastemakers are typically driven in the back of Town Cars and S-Klasses. There’s a considerable number of people out there who are willing to make texting and driving punishable by death because they are never in a situation where they could commit the crime themselves. Furthermore, the middle class can be taxed and fined and regulated and they will largely play the game the way it’s meant to be played, occasionally contributing $150 to the public coffers while furtively holding their phones beneath the increasingly elevated beltlines of their fortress-like SUVs.

Texting and driving is wrapped up in the urban mind with fat people and hicks and the Ford F-150 and the AR-15 and Miranda Lambert and all that other lamentable garbage. Why not rail against it? It’s sort of like the people who rail passionately against Nestle’s former activities in Africa because it’s mostly irrelevant to them; they never eat Crunch! bars anyway. Mr. Herzog’s documentary is unlikely to change anybody’s mind. Either you already hate texting and driving for reasons that are mostly cultural, or you don’t. If you have thirty-five minutes to burn today, you might be better off reading Daniel Greenfield’s essay on some of the root causes behind this difference of opinion.

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113 Comments on “Perhaps You’d Like To Watch An Extremely Touching Video Chock Full Of Anecdotal “Evidence”...”


  • avatar
    BerlinDave

    I am in my late 50s and I have not rear ended anyone at all this week, at least yet. But, I suppose it is about time for me to return to the nursing home for the evening – it is nearly 1800 here.

    What I might be trying to say is 50s ain’t that old anymore. At least once you get there!

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I’m forty-one and it looks frighteningly near, I’ll tell you :)

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff Waingrow

        Writing juvenile articles will not stave off that fateful day. Perhaps when you do hit 50, you’ll finally realize that acceptance is the better part of valor.

        • 0 avatar
          Jack Baruth

          The quote you’re riffing on was meant by Shakespeare to be contemptible and was understood by his audiences to be so. It’s Falstaff’s counterpart to “once more into the breach” and it was meant to show that not every nobleman was noble.

          I will continue to walk into the breach when it comes to this distracted-driving nonsense. Any time emotions are arrayed in their gleaming banners and shining armor and countless multitudes against a ragged army of dull facts and shopworn reality, you will find me in the latter camp.

          Here’s some reality for you. Distracted driving isn’t worth the jihad. Kids drive into things for a million reasons and they’ll keep doing it. Young people are easily and naturally distracted. If it isn’t an iPhone it will be something else. Old people drive into things because they haven’t kept their situational awareness and neocortical capability up over the years. Every once in a while you see a 70-year-old guy tearing it up in an SCCA race. We notice it because it’s an exception, like Johnson’s famous dog walking on its hind legs.

          • 0 avatar
            Jeff Waingrow

            Oy, so serious! I meant it in a jocular way. I thought that was obvious. But I do like your comparing the geezer’s antics with Dr. Johnson’s dog. It didn’t really have much to do with anything here, but at least it was a chance to show how erudite you are. Which you are. BTW, you are correct with your Shakespeare, but the “discretion” quote has morphed over time into a figure of speech that differs markedly from the source, namely that it now is assumed to mean that bravery without good judgment is folly.

  • avatar
    BigDuke6

    A couple of years ago when I had to lock up the brakes on my Kawasaki ZRX1100 to avoid a young girl that turned left in front of me (on her cell phone of course), I realized there was a new threat to motorcyclists. I should rephrase that: SAME threat (distracted drivers), but a different cause for it. Cell phones and texting. Distracted drivers have been around since the first day a driver had a passenger with in the vehicle with them. Jack, you can pooh-pooh it all you want, but there are definitely MORE distracted drivers out on the roads, and by my observations, they are generally in the 18-40 year old range.

    • 0 avatar
      GoCougs

      No offense but motorcyclists are their own threat. They don’t belong on the road with cars.

    • 0 avatar

      Motorcyclists (the ones on the sport bikes) behave like they are immortals and no road rules exist for them. And CHP does not care too. Some of them are able to drive while turning around and looking back – the fit can never accomplish even when driving a car. Motorcyclists are people with sharp instincts (like my cat) but with death wish (unlike my cat). I owned motorcycle myself when I was young and it was the most dangerous adventure I ever was involved in. In contrast bicycle is a much safer mean of transportation the main reason being that they are not as fast coming from nowhere as motorbikes.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    It is still a real problem either way. Just this week, I passed a guy texting on his motorcycle. Come on now, that is just plain ridiculous. People are asking for it so they should not be surprised by what they get. And a “Sorry, I was just texting. Didn’t mean it.” Will not cut it.

    Perhaps the numbers don’t back up the stats now.. but I don’t want to be in that small percentile that is permanently affected by some dope with a phone in one hand and a steering wheel in the other.

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      Lol, appropriate screen name.

      I don’t want to have to share an airline seat with an obese person. Should I make a bunch of outrageous claims, spend millions of your tax dollars, and call you names if you disagree just because this unwanted contact might increase my chances of catching a disease? No. Things need perspective. Some PSA type activity and some appropriate punishment for offenders is the proper response.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Perhaps AT&T thought if the arguments against texting and driving were stupid, people would ignore them?

    Perhaps Herr Herzog thought that continuing to push invalid arguments with true conclusions would help extend the life of progressivism by reinforcing the fog of fallacy currently shrouding the mind of the American voter?

    Actually, it’s more likely that none of the people involved thought about anything so unimportant as making a proper case against bad behavior because surely it’s the thought that counts, or the short term benefit, and there is never any moral hazard in demagoguery.

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      AT&T is trying to get out in front of texting and driving because if rare but disgustingly tragic texting and driving accidents keep happening the public is going to demand that either:

      1) White suburban girls that kill or permanently injure people get at a minimum tougher sentences than black boys with a couple grams of baking soda diluted cocaine, instead of a few weeks plus probation.

      2) Lawmakers require that a number of blunt but easily implemented technologies make it impossible to use a phone in a moving vehicle.

      AT&T knows that 1 will never happen, so it is incredibly scared that 2 will happen. That is why it, along with the other carriers, are funding these ads.

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        Nah, it’s just PR. Your number 2 is false. Those easy ideas fall into the stupid, lock up all moving devices, category and will get beat by workarounds, or the dangerous category, jamming radio signals.

        Both foolish.

        There is rarely anything new under the sun, and texting is no worse than reading the paper.

        • 0 avatar
          slow kills

          Consider the intelligence level of someone texting while driving. Do they seem like the type swift enough to find workarounds?

          The real fear is when insurance companies wise up and start denying claims when a driver’s cell phone was in use. That’s when this will end.

          Mr. Baruth needs to recognized that he has multitudes more skill than the average driver. I only have one one or so such magnitude and know better than to multitask unnecessarily.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Which raises the question, if two people driving while texting crash into each other, is anyone at fault?

          • 0 avatar
            WheelMcCoy

            >> Mr. Baruth needs to recognized that he has multitudes more skill than the average driver

            Not exactly. JB recounts in one of his columns (couple years ago?) how he was trying to parallel park and was bumping into the cars in front and back of him. He’s amazing on the track, but pretty average on the street, at least when it comes to parking.

            Thus, regardless of skill or who you are, texting while driving is a bad idea.

  • avatar
    Zekele Ibo

    You complain about ‘anecdotal “evidence”‘ (the quotes on “evidence” being yours), but your anecdotal example is in no way in opposition to the evidence presented regarding texting and driving, it just suggests that the problem is larger than just one aspect.

    People who text and drive are ego-maniacal pricks, they deserve what they get. Their victims do not. Not everything is a conspiracy against the proletariat. Got the Dalai Lama on line 2 but you can’t pull over? Please…

  • avatar
    Dan

    If you can frame auto accidents as something that happens because of cell phones – or alcohol, or speeding, or whatever it is your personal bogeyman is – then by extension not doing that means you will never have an accident.

    Driving past someone who smashed a 4000 lb machine is as close to violence as most of us ever get. Even if they don’t impale you on the steering column anymore. People need a coping mechanism.

    It’s like pretending that people who forget their kid in the carseat to cook are immoral monsters who need to go to prison. Because the virtue of not being an immoral monster means you won’t forget like they did.

    So stop looking for logic. There isn’t any, there isn’t supposed to be any, there isn’t going to be any.

    • 0 avatar
      GoCougs

      lol – “forgetfulness” (i.e., negligence or recklessness) is proper standing for moral, rational, logical law.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      “Driving past someone who smashed a 4000 lb machine is as close to violence as most of us ever get.”

      You must lead a charmed life. Most frequent exposure to something violent? Maybe. Closest? Sadly it’s not even close.

      • 0 avatar
        LectroByte

        LOL, perhaps you need to move yourself to a nicer neighborhood. I hear Detriot is a real hell hole, but for the most of us in middle America, car crashes are about it as far as real-life violence goes. In your case, though, what were you thinking of?

        • 0 avatar
          Detroit-Iron

          I am not saying that I live in Mogadishu or that I am Billy Badass, I am just saying that the worst thing that has ever happened to me or the majority of people in my immediate circle is much worse than a car accident. When I was ten years old I had a major operation that was much worse than any car accident than I have been in or personally witnessed. Maybe I just don’t drive as much as you.

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      Darn, Dan. That was an awful post. I think I get the point, but I can’t be sure.

  • avatar
    Automusings

    Wow. Hellooo stereotypes…
    “Distracted driving is primarily a middle-class affliction. Poor people don’t own cars, the urban elite take public transportation, and the country’s tastemakers are typically driven in the back of Town Cars and S-Klasses.”
    Really? That’s the world you live in? In your head perhaps.

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      He has a point though. We have a big issue in our society with people getting all uppity about things they don’t want other people doing or having. They then have no concern whatsoever about how those things get treated by government. Worse, they support the draconian attacks. They want SUV owners punished, corporate jets banned, or knitting needles regulated. Whatever. How about the attacks on AWD by people who blame it for the price of fuel being too high.

      I suppose if you live in Florida, AWD seems outlandish, but taxing it would likely result in the death of some child whose parents then decided against it. The whole country needs a bit of real tolerance.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        “They want SUV owners punished, corporate jets banned, or knitting needles regulated.”

        You left out Kinder Eggs ;)

        “I suppose if you live in Florida, AWD seems outlandish… The whole country needs a bit of real tolerance.”

        I agree. People are free to drive whatever vehicle others might find ridiculous, neat, boring, exciting, or anything in between.

        Very few people in most cities “need” AWD any more than they “need” a powerful sports car, convertible, soccer-mom-mobile for 1.8 kids… I think some people’s choices are silly, but at the end of the day I have no “need” to decide for other people what kind of vehicle they should own. Live and let live. Sheesh!

        • 0 avatar
          WheelMcCoy

          >> Very few people in most cities “need” AWD any more than they “need” a powerful sports car, convertible, soccer-mom-mobile for 1.8 kids…

          Agree to live and let drive.

          But off-topic, I wonder what “need” AWD in Florida satisfies. A sports car satisfies a visceral urge. A convertible is for those who like the wind in their hair. Soccer-mom-mobile driver might have 1.8 kids, but anticipates driving the whole soccer team to a competition.

          What is the AWD driver in Florida thinking?

          Edited to answer my own question: A zombie apocalypse!

          • 0 avatar
            Landcrusher

            Aside from all the myriad reasons one might end up with an AWD car in Florida despite not finding any value in having an AWD vehicle in Florida? (These people get to suffer being called idiots buy true idiots who don’t realize their own stupidity and rudeness.).

            I believe some spirited drivers believe that AWD offers superior handling capability for when they are racing, legally or otherwise. They may or may not be correct, but if its their money then it’s their choice (aside from breaking the law, of course). Do they deserve insults over it? Should their civility be questioned because they are “wasting” fuel and driving up the cost of that resource?

            I think the rude ones are the idiots who just don’t get the beauty of markets.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            There are many parts of Florida where dirt roads are in the majority, coupled with daily rain and you soon find out that AWD is every bit as important as it is anywhere in the snowbelt

          • 0 avatar
            Landcrusher

            There you go, Lie2me has another good reason!

          • 0 avatar
            Elena

            4×4 driver in FL here. I must get anywhere regardless of weather (business reasons). My previous truck was rear traction. Totaled by the driver of a fuel efficient vehicle who ran stop sign. Bought me same make/model/year but 4×4. I need to drive on grass/dirt (or carry the ladder myself). When it rains… huge difference. I tried both versions, hence I can tell.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Marginalizing the driving needs of any particular region based on a post card or travel log is uninformed. “Hey, I hear Nevada is a hot desert, no need for chains or 4-wheel/AWD there, huh?”

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            I would have just as well assumed that you had AWD for some good reason, or some “good enough” reason… that was none of my business!

            See, citizens? It’s not so hard.

            Cheers!

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            I would never assume to know what another driver’s needs might be, I see a car for one second when driving, how do I know where he lives or what he does? Even if what he drives is strictly to feed his ego, it’s still a need that’s being fulfilled

          • 0 avatar
            WheelMcCoy

            ok ok, plenty of good reasons. I am the wiser for it. :)

        • 0 avatar
          Chris FOM

          I can’t speak for Florida, but I can tell you why my wife’s Flex in Texas has AWD: it’s the only way to adopt a FF chassis like the Flex to adequately put down the power of the 3.5L Ecoboost. We routinely drive on two-lane roads with limited passing opportunities, that extra power makes passing far quicker and safer, especially on hills, but trying to channel 360 lb/ft or 355 HP through the front wheels would create enough torque steer to make anyone struggle. AWD is the only real alternative in that scenario.

  • avatar
    brenschluss

    I’ll admit right now, instead of watching that video, I watched him eat his shoe again.

    With that out of the way, how do you deal with the fact that a large number of people just aren’t competent at doing much more than thinking while driving? Outlawing (or rather enforcement of such a law) is unfeasible, so what? Mandate Faraday cages so not even JB, Neon wrangler extraordinaire, would be able to use a phone? Do nothing?

    In theory the latter seems warmer and fuzzier, but the number of people I see lane wandering and panic braking sure does make me wish for some self-awareness.

    • 0 avatar
      Silvy_nonsense

      “how do you deal with the fact that a large number of people just aren’t competent at doing much more than thinking while driving?”

      From what I see on the road, I’m pretty sure most people aren’t even thinking. Driving is a type of fugue state for many.

      • 0 avatar
        Elena

        I’ll say a large number of people just aren’t competent at thinking neither at driving even when not attempted at the same time. Wish I’m wrong but my subjective assessment points in that direction.

  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    Besides cellphones, al the new touchscreen and bluetooth-enabled in-car texting are a big danger.

    I can with just a short look turn a knob or push a button in my pre-touch screen car. but now many cars have that on the screen, where I need to look, don’t have good feedback, need to scroll through menus….

    And how can displaying text messasges on that screen be legal when texting on the cellphone is illegal? when i read a text I’m distracted regardless on if the text is on the car screen or my cellphone.

    I think all the good effort that was made by adding crasht ests, airbags, vehicle stability control is nullified by those gadgets.

    now they even add lane-change warning, front radar etc. in… all just beacuse people get too stupid to drive? Blind-spot detector… wht about reducing blind spots, wouldn’t that be better?

    Cars never neede drearview cameras, now it is nearly impossible to park one without that camera.

  • avatar
    GoCougs

    Good grief, yet another god awful op-ed piece by TTAC. The author would have better luck trying to justifying DUI and street racing.

    I will say, three of the four stories (kid w/sister, Amish buggy, lady w/dog), had two things in common (beyond idiot entitled drivers) – they had “right of way” because they weren’t cars and the punishments were laughable.

    The US’s laws ridiculous right-of-way laws is a major contributor to pedestrian/car crashes. It’s illogical and irrational. People can look out for cars much better than cars can look out for people.

    The US’s laws for materially bad driving are laughable – note the sentences the drivers received; add to this the laughable sentences handed down to chronic DUIers who kill someone.

    • 0 avatar
      mor2bz

      //////////////wtf ? The woman by her mailbox was supposed to look out for someone
      driving off the road and should have been able to prevent the accident, because people can
      get out of the way of cars better than the other way around? Maybe you missed the part of the film
      when it was said that the driver hit the MAILBOX.

      Good luck to you pal if you ever end up in a court of law defending your logic that pedestrians should be
      watching out for you.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    Jack, I read Greenfield’s essay and was so startled by its incoherence that I felt I needed to see more of what he’d been writing. I suggest that others might consider doing the same, to see the sorts of ideas that fuel your imagination. It suggests to me, at least, that when you wander off the immediate subject of cars, I too will want to wander off.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Well, if you don’t like Melville, then I’m really screwed.

      ‘Cause that’s all that’s in my head, Greenfield and Melville. Queequeg and the Internet City.

      Seriously. If you only read people with whom you agree, that’s called the “filter bubble” and it’s bad.

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff Waingrow

        Jack, every day I read people with whom I have serious disagreements. And often enough, I eventually come to see that there’s some merit in what they’ve been saying. So this is a canard. Some stuff is so lacking in quality that it is destined to remain so in perpetuity. Greenfield is intemperate and given to using hyperbole as a substitute for serious thought. Why drag Melville into this unworthy company?

        • 0 avatar
          Jack Baruth

          Read the reviews for Moby Dick… when it came out the critics were all like HOLY SHITBALLS THIS TRIPPY JUNK IS SUCH A DISAPPOINTMENT FROM THE GUY WHO BROUGHT US THOSE SA-WEET TRAVELOGUES KNOWN AS OMOO AND TYPEE

          Greenfield’s not responsible for the idea you eventually hold to be true. He’s a source of ideas and you can use them as you see fit. Many times he has a point… in particular his characterization of social media interaction as adhering to urban rules is worth considering. USENET in the Eighties, by contrast, was like a suburb. You knew the people, nobody was anonymous, and behavior was much better.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Jack, you have well and truly managed to jump the shark with this passionate but ultimately nonsensical rant. Distracted driving is not a class issue but simply a escalation of an existing problem. People have crashed cars before looking for dropped cigarettes, staring at nubile pedestrians or looking for their favorite 8-track but cell phones and their irresistible attraction to some drivers have taken this to new heights. Making drivers aware of this danger by showing them the possible consequences is a good start.

    As for the culture warrior nonsense, I distinctly remember some folks in the 70s making the same argument about drunk driving and how it was “the man” sticking it to the working class. It was nonsense then and continues to be when used in the context of distracted driving.

    As for the WTF introduction about the “old woman” in her 50s who, by your logic, was simply too old to stop herself from running into the car in front – for the sake of the children, think before you post.

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      Thanks for posting the above. I kind of thought, “Am I the only one who thinks the article was complete and total BS?” The “old” woman being unable to stop was the capper on a load of nonsense. If you aren’t paying attention, bad things can, and sometimes do, happen. If you are sleep deprived as a lot of people are, bad things can, and sometimes do, happen. It was like this before people drove cars, and it’s the same now.

      It’s that simple. Jack apparently is off the deep end with politics, seeing things that really aren’t there, and making assumptions that are just jumping way over the shark.

  • avatar
    Dr. Michael Delaney

    Mr. Baruth,
    I was very disappointed in your editorial commentary. Read the statistics on distracted driving, visit the surviving family, come see some “gore” with me on call. I’ve seen wrecks, lives lost, suffering families, and accident victims scarred for life as a result of distracted driving.
    Why does this need to be a “cause celebre”? We have a new socially wired generation taking to the roads and an older generation trying to keep up. They need to be educated that texting is dangerous. We have an opportunity to change behavior. Ever hear someone tell the story of a kid telling an adult to put their seat belts on? I would love to hear the same apply to texting.
    If TTAC is still interested in my series of articles, my next article will be on this subject. Hopefully as an editor, you would be interested in having an expert present the facts related to distracted driving.

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      Dr. Delaney,
      Having read the statistics, and compared them with the many studies conducted by academics supported by tax dollars, I came to the conclusion that the academics are a dangerous bunch of con men who should never have attained tenure in a world with academic integrity.

      Surely, distracted driving is a problem. Surely, these new devices make it worse. Surely we don’t need to go overboard with phony studies, doctored statistics, and righteous indignation by people who have a desperate need to feel better about themselves by denouncing others.

      If you have reasoned piece which points out the actual scope of the problem while proposing policies which are proportionate with the real dangers then bring it on. What no one needs is yet another diatribe full of hyperbole and half truth designed to get Big Brother ever farther into our lives.

      • 0 avatar
        WheelMcCoy

        >> phony studies …

        Hahaha. I see what you did there… “phone-y studies”

        But I certainly welcome Dr. Delaney’s perspective.

        • 0 avatar
          Landcrusher

          I would be interested more in how he thinks he is an expert. I believe the contrary. I think that being a surgeon makes his perspective misleading on this subject just as a the opinion of a shooting victim’s mom would be on gun control.

          • 0 avatar
            WheelMcCoy

            >> I would be interested more in how he thinks he is an expert

            I’m not necessarily looking for specific expertise, but for perspective. The Dr. can give a first hand accounting of the results of stupid actions. Similarly, JB wrote his perspective on the subject.

            Sorting through multiple perspectives gives the best chance for sound policy.

            And as applied to gun control, I agree policy can’t be set only by the opinion of a victim’s mother (and it’s not), but I would want to hear her story. And the story of the marksman, the hunter, the robber, and the businesses involved with guns.

          • 0 avatar
            Landcrusher

            Wheel,
            Some perspectives don’t help but instead inflame the issue.

            Distracted driving caused horrendous accident. Pain, death, and disability followed. Oh the humanity.

            How does that differ based on the cause? It doesn’t. It shouldn’t affect policy in any way. His experience is anecdotal as well. You really don’t even need to know any statistics to come up with the policy. It’s willful negligence. Treat it appropriately. Move on.

            One of my two best friends worked as an ER doc for a dozen years. He is amazed at how people respond differently to his opinions based on this experience and his having an MD on all sorts of stupid stuff. It’s plenty appropriate for him to tell them that some behaviors are bad for them and they shouldn’t do them. Great.

            No one here, including JB, disagrees with that. No one really reads what he is saying. What he is saying is that people will do it, including himself, and that bad policies will only make it worse. What’s wrong with that? Nothing. People who are nuts enough to emulate JB’s behavior aren’t changing and neither are the wise people. What could happen is people wake up and realize that bad rhetoric and policies only make things worse.

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        “What no one needs is yet another diatribe full of hyperbole and half truth designed to get Big Brother ever farther into our lives.”

        I lean libertarian, but get a bit annoyed when people get absolutist about what they are able to do or drive on public roads.

        If private companies owned the roads I guarantee that cell phone jammers would already be fully deployed.

        Snowden revealed the massive government violations already going on with regard to cell phones and other electronic communications. Things that actually are unconstitutional.

        If the government bans cell phone use in moving vehicles on public roads that is going to be tiny compared to, for example, banning personal use marijuana plant growth in private residences. Something that actually does stretch the constitution.

        • 0 avatar
          Landcrusher

          In what way did I whine about what I should or should not be able to do while driving?

          Want to outlaw texting while driving, fine. Just don’t make the law work in such a way that I can be stopped and harassed and fined at any time based on doing nothing dangerous and based on flimsy evidence. And if its so important that we be safe drivers, where are the strict standards on the written and driven tests? How about pulling over the obviously unsafe cars, etc.

          If private companies endanger us all by jamming radio signals, I will be happy to grab a big stick and put an end to it. I doubt it will ever be safe to jam signals, and I certainly am unaware of any currently safe tech to do so. If you have ever watched a navigation instrument jump around in a cockpit, you would feel the same way.

          • 0 avatar
            racer-esq.

            I replaced whine with get absolutist because it was more fitting.

            Any legal solution to texting is either going to be based on a cop’s word, which is particularly flimsy evidence, or a blunt technological solution.

            That is why the carriers are scared and are trying to get in front of this.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Very well put Doctor.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m definitely interested.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Dr. Michael,

      The statistics on distracted driving suggest that it’s not much of a problem and that non-cellphone distractions make up a bigger share of the accidents than cellphone-related ones.

      Traffic deaths are down since the introduction of the mobile phone. Nobody likes to talk about that but it’s true.

      I’d be delighted to publish anything you have to contribute but be aware that TTAC is no longer the sort of place where we put severed feet and “shibari” rope bondage above the fold. :)

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Deaths are down because cars ARE safer to crash, and emergency medicine is much better by leaps and bounds. But the death rate says nothing about accident rates. I may not be killed when some idiot texting runs into the back of my now irreplaceable BMW wagon, but I will surely be mightily PEEVED.

        You can count me as one who lost a mailbox to an idiot texter. Of course, she lost a rather nice Nissan Pathfinder, so I guess I came out ahead on that one. Oddly enough they don’t barrel roll particularly well. Glad I wasn’t standing next to that mailbox at the time. I did get to help her out of the truck and get her a wet cloth for her bloody head though.

        Don’t want to be hassled by the cops for texting, then DON’T TEXT. Simple, any idiot can do it. Call me a flaming liberal (which I am not in any way I assure you) but sometimes idiots need to be protected from themselves through government intervention. If that protects ME right along with them I am all for it.

        • 0 avatar
          Landcrusher

          Unfortunately, the way the laws are being written and applied, people are getting hassled and fined even though they are not texting. The stories have been on this very site.

          In a triumph of progressivism, the state managed to use propaganda backed by bad science to create a bogeyman, use him to justify draconian edicts, and started pulling people over after peeking in their cars at stop lights and seeing them simply look at their phones. No reading and driving necessary. The whole cycle of this process has been reduced to a couple years. Can the Thought Police be far away?

  • avatar
    jbltg

    Pointless article, sorry. Evidence of a slow news day or something. Next!

    Another example of the “rights” of the American individual trumping personal responsibility very perversely. The hell with everyone else!

    Here in the mild climate of LA, I seem to be one of the very few lunatics who actually drives around with the car windows open for ventilation instead of being sealed up with “climate control” for no real reason.

    Aside from distracted and just plain old selfish douchebag drivers here, I have to think that the isolation from the road and other cars produced by having the windows sealed up all the time is a major contributor to lack of what the pilots call “situational awareness.”

    • 0 avatar
      Elena

      I noticed same. I play really loud music but unless I’m driving in heavy rain I keep at least one window rolled down. It never ceases to amaze me how I’m always the first one to notice an emergency vehicle approaching. The “isolated” motorists take longer to perceive lights/sirens and once they finally realize it’s there somewhere they miserably fail to identify the source of the sound. To my amusement there’s a law against playing loud music while driving but proper isolation from road noise is a desirable vehicle feature.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        A 3000 watt, 13 speaker stereo isn’t the problem. Watch how often the drivers ahead of you checks his/her mirrors. About never is right. When you get stopped at red light. Watch the drivers taking off from a fresh green. Do they ever look to the left or right before blasting straight through the intersection?

        With the windows up, just the stock/chintzy radio at 1/2 volume or the HVAC blowing at 1/2 speed can block the sound of emergency vehicles.

  • avatar
    CGHill

    I’m just delighted to see that Baruth is reading Sultan Knish.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    Any action that does not relate to the direct, safe control of a car on public roads should never be condoned or even have any implied consent by a journalist or person in a position of authority.
    You can have your opinion but should never advise unsafe behavior, legal or not. This should be clearly stated, in this case.
    Texting while driving takes your eyes off the road and cannot be considered safe, ever.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Michael Delaney

      Amen and well said.
      I’ll raise an IPA to you beer boy…from the comfort of my recliner

    • 0 avatar

      So let me get this straight. You’re driving your date home and she’s hotter than all of Baruth’s women combined. She puts her hand on your thigh but since that has nothing to do with the direct, safe control of a car on public roads, you move her hand away.

      A short while later, she does it again, only this time it’s not your thigh that she grabs.

      You tell her, “This is unsafe behavior and I’m clearly stating that I advise you not to do that.”

      She hikes up her skirt, telling you, “I decided not to wear any panties today. Look at what I’m doing,” and she moans.

      You tell her that you cannot take your eyes off the road and what she wants you to do cannot be considered safe.

      She pouts. Then she leans over and whispers in your ear in a lustful voice, “have you ever had road head?”

      You reply, “Any action that does not relate to the direct, safe control of a car on public roads should never be condoned.”

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        The thing is that drunk driving and car sexy time *usually* happen well into the night, when it is much less likely for kids to be crossing the streets and going for bike rides.

        Which is not to defend drunk driving, or even car sexy time, but to illustrate why texting and driving is going to continue to deliver particularly stunning to the public and lawmakers situations.

      • 0 avatar
        tallnikita

        Texting while driving should be licensed. As a requirement for obtaining the license, the user should cross Canal Street on foot on his/her red light while texting.

      • 0 avatar
        WheelMcCoy

        >> She pouts. Then she leans over and whispers in your ear in a lustful voice, “have you ever had road head?”

        :) Ok, let’s make an exception. But as recer-esq. points out, it’s best it be kept to quiet roads. You might experience unintended acceleration at the end.

      • 0 avatar
        Beerboy12

        There is a difference between you choosing to do something that takes attention away from the road and someone else distracting you. I hope you are not suggesting that because someone else could distract you, you think it’s OK to make that choice to look down at your phone while driving?

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        Being a Red-Blooded-American-Male with no dietary restrictions here’s how I want to go: Being fellated, texting, and eating a bacon sandwich, all while driving at a high rate of speed. Imagine that obituary.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I don’t understand how a concept like typing on a miniature keyboard while driving even got to a debatable level in the first place. Playing checkers, knitting, cooking or ironing a shirt are activities that aren’t recommended while driving, but do we have to be told? How about

    “Any distraction while operating a vehicle diminishes your ability to drive safely and should be avoided”

    We could even add…

    “Willful negligence can result in fines, imprisonment, injury and death”

    Is this not the all inclusive first rule of safe driving?

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      >> Playing checkers, knitting, cooking or ironing a shirt are activities that aren’t recommended while driving, but do we have to be told?

      There’s something addictive about texting… unlike, say, ironing a shirt. Hence, while obvious to us that it’s dumb to text and drive, it really needs to be said to the less experienced.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        “There’s something addictive about texting…”

        You’re kidding, right? I’ve never heard of a junkie who mainlined while driving, I guess he has more sense

  • avatar
    Ron

    Did Bertil write this? Forty percent of Americans on welfare own a car, albeit a clinker. And the country’s tastemakers driven by a chauffeur? Seriously?

    According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), texting makes a driver 23 times as likely to be involved in an accident. Thirteen percent of drivers between 18 and 20 involved in car wrecks admit to either texting or talking on their cell phone at the time of the crash. Ten percent of teens who text while driving spend approximately 10% of their driving time outside of their lane. The National Safety Council says texting while driving causes 1,600,000 accidents per year, nearly 25% of all accidents.

    Would you permit your teen to drive after drinking four beers? According to the NHTSA, texting while driving is about six times more likely to cause an accident than driving intoxicated and the same as driving after four beers.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m cool with laws banning the use of electronic devices when driving as long as they apply equally to all drivers, including police and all other public employees.

      Since you quoted NHTSA, I will point out that agency’s official position that the use of such devices are “inherently” distracting. Distracting for you, distracting for me, distracting for a cop. You can’t be trained at the academy to learn how not to be distracted when talking to your boss on the radio.

      You do believe in one legal standard for everyone, don’t you?

      The same applies to laws on firearms, as far as I’m concerned. If I can’t bring a gun into a school building, if guns are that dangerous, then cops shouldn’t be allowed to either.

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff Waingrow

        Ronnie, upon further thought, won’t you admit that there are actually numerous situations where one legal standard does not apply. Or would you just as soon have me doing your surgery? Categorical statements are easily made and just as easily refuted.

        • 0 avatar

          In the case of professional licenses, there is one legal standard for everyone, you need to have a license to practice that profession. An analogous situation would be if government employees didn’t need that license.

          To be honest, as the son of a veterinarian, I wouldn’t have a problem getting treated by a vet, they’re generally competent doctors.

          Too many professions and trades like to use state power to enforce the monopolies of their guilds. Lawyers are among the worst offenders in that regard, but now other guilds, like home decorators, nutritionists and hair stylists are trying to use state power to protect their monopolies.

  • avatar
    cgjeep

    I blame cup holders for the distracted driving mess. If I I didn’t have cup holders I would have to hold my beer and I wouldn’t be able to text while driving.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    Jack, there’s a bit of truth to what you’re saying, but you’re on the wrong side of the argument. Urbanization is necessarily a tyranny because people are by nature stupid and selfish. They in fact, do need to be told what they already know, because knowing something (don’t text while driving) will not stop you from doing it. If self-evident facts were enough to improve human behaviour, doctors wouldn’t have the worst hand washing rates out of all healthcare providers… but they consistently do and have to be shamed into the simple act of washing their hands after seeing patients. I don’t want to live in a nanny state either, but the evidence shows that the problem with the libertarian ideal is that it can’t work, because people can’t function ideally.

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      The way that doctors abuse the monopoly that the government grants them on healthcare to underserve and overcharge patients is a strong argument for more libertarianism in the healthcare system. Doctors use their incredible special interest power, that they have through the AMA and other lobbying groups, to fight for regulations that protect their jobs and income, not that serve in the best interests of society.

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Michael Delaney

        I am not a member of the AMA nor self employed. I am employed by the hospital because if I was self employed as a trauma surgeon I would go out of business. Unfortunately, healthcare is a business. I have been around the world and all the systems are broke. At the end of the year if 30% of your patients don’t pay you a penny, you can’t run a business. I am fortunate to be able to take care of all comers regardless of payer source. Crash your car anywhere in the world, if you want the best possible outcome, pray it is in the US.

  • avatar
    mor2bz

    Is this the truth about cars or the truth about driving?

    Since you wrote it Jack, I’ll give you my opinion. You need to look up the word anecdote.
    Anecdotes are meant to amuse. It is sick that you are amused by these stories. Anecdotes “may
    be about real people”. These stories ARE about real people. I hate your sarcasm in labeling
    these “anecdotes” as “extremely touching”. You apparently are not touched by anything, not
    even crippling injuries or loss of life. Go crawl back under your rock.

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      I disagree with Jack on the seriousness of texting and driving.

      But I’m not going to knock him for portraying these events as anecdotes. Every bad law that was ever passed was passed because of a horrible anecdote, and not every death is preventable.

      I guarantee there is some law you hate, or at least thing is stupid, that I can somehow link to a grizzly child death.

      BUT, the thing is that, in this cost benefit analysis, I am not very sympathetic with the texters. And they have at times included me. Although since I am a not a young person learning to drive or an old person learning to use their phone I am not the most at risk offender.

      Since driving is on public roads I tend to view it as a privilege, not a right. And if people cannot get their act together the public is going to demand a blunt technological solution. Hell, if I never had to get anymore nagging phone beeps while driving that might be the greatest thing that ever happened.

      • 0 avatar
        mor2bz

        Talk to me about “cost-benefit analysis” after you get hit by a fellow texter. You “are not very sympathetic with texters”. That would be
        YOU.

        • 0 avatar
          racer-esq.

          Jeez, some people don’t have enough reading comprehension to see when someone is agreement with them. Please, spare me the anonymous internet smugness.

          And since you don’t care about cost benefit analysis stop driving.

          • 0 avatar
            mor2bz

            Am I any more anonymous than you?

            You’re right: I could not comprehend what I read. You disagree with yourself. You think texting is a serious
            matter yet you do it yourself. You claim to agree with me
            yet want to excuse yourself for texting because you fall neither into the too young or too old category.

            this isn’t about cost benefit. It is about life and death.

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        This old saw about driving is a privilege is over played and no longer practical. Freedom of travel is still a right, so if the privilege to drive becomes overly burdensome to maintain, or too easily withdrawn, or somehow leveraged against other rights, then it’s going to become a right sure enough. That’s not a good thing, so it’s best we don’t let the state screw up.

        The seat belt laws would never have passed if they hadn’t claimed it would not be a reason for a stop. So far, it took much less time for texting laws to get abused. The punishment for checking a device at a stop light should be less than even getting pulled over at all. Adding a fine is out of proportion with the offense. I suspect that in the present, hyperbolic environment, a texter is guilty in spite of almost any other overwhelming evidence in a crash. This environment was created by some quite ludicrous academic papers along with a sensationist treatment in the press. It needs to stop.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    ” A woman in her fifties “… ” she was just an old woman with poor depth perception”… “you might be better off reading Daniel Greenfield’s”

    Ok, now I get it…

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Drivers have the ultimate responsibility to avoid pedestrians, cyclists etc. No doubt about it. However, pedestrian and cyclist need to minimize their exposure for everyone’s sake. Perhaps wear bright colors at night? Reflective gear? Realize when/where drivers have to battle early morning/late afternoon glare?

    As a driver, I can’t a read a cyclist’s minds. They ride along the curb (with traffic), but when they come up on a parked car, they swing into traffic at the last second.

    They ride against traffic ON the curb at 20 MPH so as you’re exiting a parking lot, they’re coming at you from the right, where you’re not expecting anything.

    Or when you make a left into a parking lot or street, cyclists come at you fast ON the sidewalk, against traffic and out of your left blind spot.

    We all need to work together. And the favour you do for those around you, could be in your best interests.

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      The latest trend around here is to wear all black/dark blue clothes while riding your unlighted bike at midnight on a busy road with no, or very bad, lighting. I drive to work from about 1130pm until 1150pm or so, and see these idiots all the time. A couple of months ago, I’m doing about 45MPH and three of them were wobbling down the road like there wasn’t any traffic at all. I just missed one of them, who appeared like a ghost off the front right of my car. I had already slowed down to about 30 at that point, and that’s probably what saved him.

    • 0 avatar
      Elena

      Last Thursday I drove by a young skater texting while listening to music. He was blissfully unaware of rush hour traffic all around him. Lots of fun until a driver equally oblivious catches up with him. When it comes to pedestrians, cyclists, bikers, dogs, cats, snakes, etc. my approach is to assume they’re all suicidal. Still killed a squirrel in 2006 :(

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        “Still killed a squirrel in 2006 :(”

        I killed a couple squirrels over the past year- once election day (no, really, and what a strange omen!) and another, on my street as I was going about 10mph (the little guy just ran out and went for it).

        • 0 avatar
          Elena

          I bet somewhere future can be foretold “reading” dead squirrels :) Mine headed straight for me from the median in a 40 MPH zone (I was on the leftmost lane). I pressed the brake pedal at the same time I felt the tire over her… Never killed an animal in 20+ years driving and avoided a cat crossing a highway, dog in a mountain road and countless pedestrians. A lady also threw herself in front of my truck from the median but she was dressed in a way you could never fail to see her… I swerved and she kept walking like nothing ever happened. Poor taste saves lives, I guess.

        • 0 avatar
          nrd515

          Last critter I killed was a Possum who would have been fine if he had stopped or backed up, but he hesitated, and then went forward. Right tire went right on his head. Before that, I hit a dead Possum that a pickup truck had already hit (It was dead already) and it flew up and over so I couldn’t avoid it. About $200 worth of damage from a pre killed animal.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            Almost forgot- I’ve killed two (yes, 2!) birds. Both of them were along the same stretch of road within a mile of each other, although a few years apart. Very strange…

            I like this TTAC roadkill threadjack.

  • avatar
    AoLetsGo

    Here is another link to a video about cars and safety, but this one is a short commercial against drunk driving called Publooshocker

    http://www.leoburnett.com/articles/work/leo-burnett-londons-shocking-new-anti-drunk-driving-campaign/

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    I’m sympathetic with JB’s position, but there have to be limits on certain behaviors while driving.
    Perhaps Utah has it right: Text, drive and hurt someone = Drink, drive and hurt someone.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/29/technology/29distracted.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

  • avatar
    probert

    This article is filled with straw men – who thinks what of whom – it doesn’t ring true. Drive around and just see how texting and phoning affect driving – it’s right there every single day.

    The question is how many deaths and injuries are we willing to accept? Around 40,000/year die in car accidents – it’s accepted as the price of doing business. But texting and phoning are not part of the transportation business.

    So what’ the acceptable death toll: 100, 500, 1000, 5000, 10,000? What sounds OK to you? I look dorward to the results of the poll.


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