By on July 31, 2015

distracted

I am utterly convinced that our descendants will look on the aggressive prosecution of “distracted driving” the way hipster kids today look at the “Reefer Madness” scare of the Thirties. As police departments across the nation weigh the relative rates at which smartphone owners and career drunk drivers pay their court fines in a timely fashion (hint: it’s heavily weighed in favor of the former category), the shrill call to take additional action against people holding phones for any reason including navigation will reach a fever pitch not seen among American law enforcement since an idiot named Jack Anderson told them the Glock 17 could sneak through a metal detector. A claim, by the way, that Rachel Maddow repeated a few years ago, presumably because Maddow is either a deliberate liar or an unknowing dupe.

American drivers with more than a few days’ experience will note that the police tend to choose their speedtrap locations not by the risk that speeding in a given location poses to public safety but rather by ease of access and proximity to well-heeled drivers who are likely to quickly pay their tickets. In my hometown of Columbus, for example, speed enforcement on Route 315, which runs from the wealthy suburbs to the downtown offices, is constant and vigilant. Speed enforcement on Route 71, which runs parallel through the city but has exits leading to the ghetto and the truck stops instead of the ‘burbs, is nonexistent with the exception of the short stretch that connects the outerbelt to the upscale mall. As a consequence, Route 315 is an orderly low-speed commuter parade every day and Route 71 looks like a scene from Mad Max: Fury Road.

This cash-directed approach to safety has reached a new nadir, however, with a distracted-driving program that targets drivers who are incapable of doing any harm whatsoever.

In Marietta, Georgia, the police are posing as construction workers, which allows them to walk up to drivers who are stuck in stalled construction-zone traffic and issue them tickets for distracted driving. Never mind that no actual driving is taking place, unless you call sitting in a car with your foot on the brake for ten minutes at a time “driving”, in which case you’re going to just love “driving” in Chicago. The sheer ridiculousness of claiming that the public is endangered by cars that are not moving wouldn’t disgrace any council of the pigs in Animal Farm.

“Anytime you’re in the road, in the roadway, you’re in gear and in control of the roadway. Even reading it falls under the code section as well,” one officer told a driver.

The tickets are $150 and one point on your license. Police say texting and driving is a growing problem that needs to stop.

“I really think this is the DUI of the future. Impairment is still a problem, but this distracted driving is killing as many people as drunk drivers,” [Marietta officer Nick] Serkedakis said.

Let me correct that last sentence:

“I really think this is the DUI of the future. Impairment is still a problem, but this distracted driving is killing as many people as drunk drivers,” [Marietta officer Nick] Serkedakis LIED.

I hope you caught the word LIED in my correction. Because it’s a lie. Even the Huffington Post, which typically gives the mostly illusory problem of “distracted driving” a big slurpy blowjob every time the subject comes up, has to admit the actual facts.

In 2012, 3,328 Americans died in crashes involving a distracted driver, while 10,322 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes.

Let me edit that sentence for truth:

In 2012, 3,328 Americans died in crashes that could have possibly involved a theoretically distracted driver according to whatever cop took time to look in the car, while 10,322 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes that are always verified by blood testing for purposes of legal prosecution.

Let me offer a sentence of similar veracity for you:

According to Jack Baruth, a noted collector of “Sengir Vampire” Magic : The Gathering cards, there are probably at least five million women in the Midwest who can have an orgasm just by touching a Sengir Vampire card in the presence of a handsome, bearded man. On the other hand, there are sixteen ounces in a pound.

I’m not saying that it’s a great idea to go rocking down the road while sending selfies to your “boo” or playing Plants vs. Zombies or even reading Wikipedia, but to even think about equating texting-and-driving with drunk driving is to exaggerate the former for profit while endangering lives by de-prioritizing enforcement of the latter. Every cop who is playing fake construction worker looking for easy marks in stopped cars is one fewer cop out there catching actual criminals doing actual dangerous things. If, as Office Nick says, texting-while-driving enforcement is “The DUI Of The Future”, then take my advice: don’t let your children leave the house after the bars close, because the DUI Of The Present will kill them stone dead.

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132 Comments on ““I Really Do Think This Is Going To Be The DUI Of The Future”...”


  • avatar
    Reino

    Well we don’t have to worry about either of these statistics for very long. If the technology of automated cars and the rate of nanny-state legislation both continue on their current trajectory, it is only a matter of time until ALL driving will be illegal. I’m calling it by 2040.

    • 0 avatar
      zerofoo

      This is the exact counter argument I used when one of my anti-gun friends said we should mandate fingerprint authentication on firearms.

      The nanny state knows what is best for you. Eventually you won’t be allowed to make any decisions on your own. Just wait until we nationalize the entire healthcare system. There will be penalties for not eating your broccoli or getting enough exercise.

      Personally, I would like to decide for myself whether or not I drive a car, carry a firearm, or go to the gym on a particular day.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        You’ll be exercising in front of the telescreen every day.

        “6079 Smith W!”

      • 0 avatar
        pbr

        I don’t worry too much about this. The money that buys the US gov’t doesn’t give a rat’s ass how proles live and die, as long as the medical-industrial complex gets dibs on bleeding them dry of assets before they kick off.

        Nanny state? Pfft. Zombie apocalypse first, I say.

        As for biting back against police overreach and misguided focus, well, I support that. And while I’d rather read Jack writing about driving, cars and women with savage humor and can’t match the indignation of this piece, I generally agree that police are always looking for revenue and busywork and need pushback from us to get back to being useful.

      • 0 avatar

        “Just wait until we nationalize the entire healthcare system.”

        Totally, just like every other existing example of the universal healthcare system in the world. You’re so right.

        I’m Canadian, so I haven’t been permitted to eat ice cream or a cheese burger in YEARS. I’m also legally required to run 5kms daily. Same for the Kiwis, who actually aren’t allowed to eat kiwis due to their sugar content.

      • 0 avatar
        dantes_inferno

        @zerofoo:

        You have been identified by the authorities as a common-sense-oriented, independent-thinking societal subversive. Stormtroopers are being dispatched to your location where you will be relocated to the “re-education” center upon your apprehension. Their ETA is 30-minutes.

        10 minutes from now, a Hellcat Challenger will appear in front of your home. This is your escape vehicle. The keys will be inside. Gather your belongings and go now – before its too late.

        This message will self-destruct in 30 seconds. Good luck.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Nah. You’re wrong. Self driving cars is an experiment that will never become a law. It will take few deadly malfunctions and few law suits, and car makers themselves will refuse making these things.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        Lawsuits will happen, but the fix isn’t to stop making the product, but rather car companies lobbying govt to legally remove their liability. Automation will not halt.

        In every field, we see technology that does more for us. Where humans used to need skill and craft to accomplish things, the trend is unavoidably toward humans simply thinking and technology executing. When we live with autocomplete for typing, it’s unreasonable to think we will continue to drive.

      • 0 avatar
        Mullholland

        Actually, you’re wrong. Self driving cars are an experiment that will never become a law because…the revenue opportunity for local “law enforcement” and the “elected representatives” of every county, city and town council in the country wouldn’t allow it.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    Stuff like this is what I mean when I use terms like “revenuing” and “predatory” to describe traffic enforcement.

    What’s really missing from this environment is a slew of movies and TV shows making fun of cops for their excesses in traffic enforcement, like what existed back in the 70s and 80s.

    The modern world desperately needs its own version of the Burt Reynolds Movie, full of high-flyin’, good-natured vehicular lawbreaking and making the police look incompetent or humorously malicious.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      What would be the starring car in “Smokey and the Texter”?

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Whats missing are TV Shows and movies that even make fun of the real world.

      You cant tell me it isn’t funny watching lines of people sticking their heads into their phones in perfect synchronization.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        One thing I have never seen is someone walking down the street with a mobile glued to EACH ear, like you would on some TV shows or commercials from the ’70s and ’80s.

        (Nahhhh..I’m sure someone’s gone down the sidewalk texting into two devices ambidextrously, their feat only interrupted permanently when they step off the curb…

        …right in front of an oncoming bus! :-( )

    • 0 avatar
      Bp3dots

      There’s already too many cops out there who are just plain malicious. Making fun of them probably isnt a good idea.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    My first and only at-fault accident was caused by being distracted. I was following a friend to a soccer game in college. My back seat passenger crawled up between the seats to play with the radio, I looked down to see what she was doing just as the friend I was following stopped. Re-arranged the front of my Subaru fairly comprehensively. So I take a dim view of distracted driving due to anything.

    That said, I think there needs to be a cause and effect. I agree with Jack, sitting in traffic and sending a quick text is not a problem. Weaving all over the lane while texting is. This is where the police should have discretion. These silly stings are a cash grab, no more, no less.

    I especially have issues with the “no handheld phone use” laws when plenty of research has shown that the issue is the conversation, not the holding of the phone.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      You’re incompetent, so other people should not be allowed to talk on the phone, yet using your thumbs (which should be on the wheel) to send a message is ok?

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Prosecuting actual dangerous driving (as in, constantly running video cameras on every copshirt and copcar, bring footage in front of jury, convince jury what they see is genuinely dangerous behavior, obtain conviction by 12 peers, send to jail or punish in some other manner that actually costs those kept safer something rather than provide moral hazard by providing cover for graft), is waaaay too complicated for progressive dronelings to understand.

      So they, instead, do the best their meager intellects enable them to, which is fall all over themselves every time some huckster on the make come up with another over-simplistic, synthetic metric that allows a “never-should-have-been-in-college-in-the-first-place” halfwit to misunderstand statistics sufficiently to claim “causes” XXXXXXXXX accidents and must be Stooooopppped Noooow!

  • avatar
    zamoti

    Having nothing to do with the story at all, I’m calling BS on 315. I haven’t seen a cop on it in months and I’ve been rocking the same route for four years now, north in the morning, south in the evening. While not getting into to many details, I’ve not behaved myself on that road but on rare occasion and I have only had a handful of close calls. I mean, they can only sit in three places on the thing so it’s not too hard to spot ’em.
    However, 71 is indeed a toilet, but only because it’s carrying all the heavy truck traffic–keeping it off of 315.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Dude, Sharon Township sits out there ten hours a day, usually at the south end of the 161 overpass.

      Columbus and Perry both do shots from the Bethel overpass then drive out going north.

      CPD will sit on Lane.

      You’re not really safe until you pass the Lane exit at which point, as Michael said, it ain’t too much to jam.

      But you’re going in the opposite direction to the cash cows every day.

      • 0 avatar
        zamoti

        I’ve noticed them up on the overpass and sometimes on the ramps, but it’s been a LONG time since they’ve had a campaign. I bail off at Ackerman–and the only ticket I ever got way back in 1996 was south of Lane.
        As for the poor chumps coming opposite, I see them sitting more than moving once you get anywhere near town anyway. Oh well, I’m sure I just wrote my own ticket. I’m way overdue anyway.

      • 0 avatar
        dantes_inferno

        @Jack Baruth: But you’re going in the opposite direction to the cash cows every day.

        (cue the mooing / cash register sound effects)…

        Next thing you know legislation will be enacted outlawing cud chewing while operating a motor vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      thatsiebguy

      At least twice a week I see Sharron with someone pulled over in the southbound lane of 315 just south of the 161 overpass, usually only in the afternoon. Rarely do I see CPD camping the Bethel overpass. Overall I hardly ever see CPD camping anywhere, it’s always the city/townships doing it. Sharron also covers 23 around Fishinger almost every evening during rush hour.

      I broke down and got a cheap dashcam just because of the sheer amount of close calls I’ve had with people not paying attention, most of the time it’s because they’re on their phone. Sit at the Henderson/Olentangy light and count how many people just turning that are on a cell phone..

    • 0 avatar
      taxman100

      I can vouch for I-71; in the morning the Ohio Highway Patrol motorcycle unit is always speed-trapping North between 161 and the Outerbelt – they tend to avoid further north because of the number of lanes expands to five, and all of the traffic entering 71 North from 270 west.

      In the evening, CPD is always running on both sides of 71 further south, but mostly stopping drivers of rolling road hazards near the ghetto exits.

      I haul incredibly down 71 south in the morning, and it is great. One other thing about 315 – you have all the good liberal statists that work for the State of Ohio, or for Ohio State University, drive on 315 – they love having police around because to them, the police state works for people like them.

  • avatar
    another_VW_fanboy

    I’m all for safe driving. I’m for harsh penalties for distracted DRIVING. Looking at your phone while sitting at a light, stuck in non-moving traffic etc is a bit excessive and nothing more than a money grab. It reeks of end of the month quotas. Cops do your jobs and catch people actually driving while distracted and you’ll be doing a real service to the public otherwise your blatant money grabs will be called the BS that they are. Also how bout the cops who with their laptops, licence plate readers, radios, sat nav etc aren’t they a distraction? Oh I forgot; do as I say not as i do how silly of me.

  • avatar
    ...m...

    …distracted driving is a legitimate safety concern, but only for drivers operating motor vehicles in motion: anyone operating a low-visibility vehicle amongst moderate-to-heavy traffic over the past decade can attest to the former, and anyone sitting in a parked car can attest to the latter…

    …i think the traffic enforcement’s modus operandi comes down how difficult detection is for genuinely unsafe distraction versus the illusion of doing something about it, plus revenue, ergo security theatre…

  • avatar
    Sky_Render

    I once heard a cop complain that it took him FOREVER to drive anywhere because every car he got behind drove at or below the speed limit.

    I told him that if cops weren’t such douchebags that ticketed people for driving 5 over an arbitrary limit in order to create revenue, he wouldn’t have that issue.

    • 0 avatar
      eManual

      I recently drove (in Ohio, of course!) on a 65 mph 4 lane divided highway with an OSP in the left lane doing about 63 mph. Since many states do not allow passing on the right, I slowed down and left him plenty of room to get into the right hand lane. He slowed down even more (below 58 mph) but I wouldn’t pass him on the right. I then went behind him in the left lane, again hoping he would get to the right. He slowed down below 50mph! After playing this dosey-doe, he finally crossed the median and went the other way. Being out-of-state, my only ticket was in Ohio after 50+ years of driving.

      I can also confirm that both times I’ve been on Ohio 315 at 10-12 AM that police are well present on the trip between OH 161 and downtown Columbus.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      I love it! Cop can’t go anywhere with any verve because the rest of the traffic in the left lane in front of him is ::insert voice of crabby elementary school teacher here:: “following the SPEED LIMIT!”

      Poetic justice!!!

      Can dish it out but can’t take it, huh??!!

      (There!! I feel better now!)

  • avatar
    MPAVictoria

    Of course if we all just paid slightly higher taxes municipalities wouldn’t have to depend of tickets for revenue…

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I don’t believe that for a minute. My high property taxes do not stop the city that I live in from setting up speed traps instead of patrolling the neighborhood like they should.

      My friends that live in Chicago still have to deal with cops looking for revenue stream even though they pay property tax, the highest sales tax in America, fees for everything, and now the city wants an income tax.

      Someone will always want more.

      • 0 avatar
        SC5door

        I live in Chicago—

        The cops that do set up speed traps are typically generous—-they’re clocking people going past them not coming towards them. If you get stopped, you’re a complete idiot for speeding past a police car. On Lake Shore Drive there’s always a cop sitting in various locations; pay attention to the behavior of the cars that are entering those “blind zones” and you know when there’s a cop sitting there. You can safely pass them doing around 50, but most idiots drive through there doing 65+.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      It isn’t just money. The cops want to be seen as doing something, which encourages them to do easy things that can be numerically quantified rather than more difficult things that don’t make headlines or produce numbers. Effectiveness becomes less important than theater.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        I just want them to be seen on my street instead of setting up a speed trap on a road with an artificially low speed limit. Not that crime is particularly a problem. Larceny from unlocked cars is our city’s biggest crime problem.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          How exciting would it be for the cops to get people to lock their doors?

          In any case, the news story linked above was essentially a police press release. They are trying to get free publicity and create a deterrent.

          There are simply not enough cops to rely upon them for consistent traffic enforcement — it will always be a random cat-and-mouse game by its very nature. If we want more lawful driving, then drivers will have to decide to be more obedient.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        It isn’t just being seen, either.

        Traffic stops are amazingly effective at finding people with outstanding warrants. (People who break the law tend to break the law, after all.) Just look at how often on any Cops episode people involved in unrelated disturbances get taken in for other issues.

        It’s work that needs to be done, and cops can either do detective work and search for these people, or they can sit around and wait for them to announce themselves.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          That’s another good point. To some extent, we have traffic laws as a workaround to the Fourth Amendment.

          In most other countries, including democratic ones, traffic stops can be and are made randomly. But in the US, most traffic stops require reasonable suspicion. American police deal with that by looking for more opportunities to create reasonable suspicion.

        • 0 avatar
          pragmatic

          e.g., Timothy McVeigh.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            California pretty much disproves every progressive theory about funding government. We pay the most in gas taxes, have the best weather, and still have among the worst roads. Progressives say we don’t pay enough in property taxes because of Proposition 13, but reality is that because of our home values we still pay large amounts in property taxes. Our schools are still ESL daycare centers. Our police are focused on whatever the latest revenue enforcement gimmick is. We have huge fines for DWCellphone. Police work in threes in my neighborhood during commuter hours. They only pull people over for cell phones. No missing license plates, unsafe vehicles or rolling stops on cell phone days. They almost certainly have the citations pre-filled out, and they won’t slow down production to deviate from their agenda. We pay high income taxes, high sales taxes, punitive registration fees, and can be fined for things that most people don’t have to think about. We still have budget shortfalls and services that are cut to hurt the most taxpayers possible.

          • 0 avatar
            Dan

            California disproves every progressive talking point period. To hear people like Bernie Sanders talk, give them the keys and they’ll give you Sweden.

            They’ve had the keys to California for decades with punitive tax rates to match but none of the comfortable stuff seemed to happen. UC is $15,000 a year before room and board, the public schools and public services in general suck, crime and incarceration rates are well above the national average for every demographic, income inequality is 4th or 5th among all states depending on study metrics, private sector unions are nowhere to be seen, ad nauseum.

            Sweden? They built a richer and more incarcerative version of Mexico.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    Most of the article was fine, but what’s with: “…since an idiot named Jack Anderson told them the Glock 17 could sneak through a metal detector. A claim, by the way, that Rachel Maddow repeated a few years ago, presumably because Maddow is either a deliberate liar or an unknowing dupe.” ??

    Okay Jack, you think MSNBC is a bunch of idiots (I happen to agree), but what possible relevance does that have to the point of the article? I don’t understand your unending desire to remind your readers of your political leanings when the reference has absolutely bupkis to do with cars. (You aren’t the only TTAC writer to do this.) Somebody leaning the other political direction could have just as easily brought up Sarah Palin and her imaginary “Death Panels”, and you probably would have (quite correctly) snorted in scorn at that reference, wondering what it had to do with distracted driving.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I was looking for an example of the police taking a factually incorrect statement and running like hell with it.

      From a left-wing perspective, you could probably point to NYC cops harassing “Arabs” after September 11th, or maybe the vagrant-enforcement laws of the Fifties.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        It’s a poor example, not just because it’s polarizing but because there is a legitimate source for the DUI comparison.

        One example:
        __________

        METHOD:

        We used a high-fidelity driving simulator to compare the performance of cell phone drivers with drivers who were intoxicated from ethanol (i.e., blood alcohol concentration at 0.08% weight/volume).

        RESULTS:

        When drivers were conversing on either a handheld or hands-free cell phone, their braking reactions were delayed and they were involved in more traffic accidents than when they were not conversing on a cell phone. By contrast, when drivers were intoxicated from ethanol they exhibited a more aggressive driving style, following closer to the vehicle immediately in front of them and applying more force while braking.

        CONCLUSION:

        When driving conditions and time on task were controlled for, the impairments associated with using a cell phone while driving can be as profound as those associated with driving while drunk.

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16884056
        __________

        There are issues with this. Here are just three of them:

        -These kinds of simulator studies are unrealistic because they don’t account for the fact that real-world phone users drive more slowly and make fewer lane changes than they would otherwise, which helps to compensate for the distraction

        -Just because drivers on phones exhibit certain characteristics of DUI drivers does not mean that they crash as the same rates

        -Removing one distraction does not mean that it won’t be replaced by another — it is possible that drivers who like to be distracted by phones will seek out methods of distraction because they like to be distracted for its own sake, which would make the phone a symptom rather than a cause

        The problem is more subtle, namely that of laypeople misunderstanding research and not knowing how to use it in its proper context. Less exciting than yelping about a cable tv talk show host, but more relevant to everyday living since this sort of thing happens quite often.

        • 0 avatar
          Jack Baruth

          I think you’re confusing the results of a single study with the actual death tolls from both activities.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Go back and read what I wrote.

          • 0 avatar
            Jack Baruth

            I did. You wrote

            “It’s a poor example, not just because it’s polarizing but because there is a legitimate source for the DUI comparison.”

            Then you quote a study with obvious flaws.

            In both cases, the facts are readily available. The Glock is observable by all airport security equipment and always has been. Distracted driving does not come close to drunk driving in terms of fatalities.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            You clearly didn’t read past the beginning, otherwise you would have noted three points that I made about the research, including “Just because drivers on phones exhibit certain characteristics of DUI drivers does not mean that they crash as the same rates.”

            And no, the study isn’t “obviously flawed.” The study itself is fine for what it measures. The problem is with taking logical leaps with its findings.

            Most people don’t understand studies. They misunderstand the terminology and take findings out of context. That’s what the police have done here — in some respects, phone usage is similar to drunk driving, but that does not mean that the results are the same.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      Rachel Maddow does offer corrections and retractions to her stories when presented with evidence. And when she interviews anyone (conservatives included), she does ask poignant questions, but is generally nice about it. That is, she won’t speak over her guest or cutoff the mike.

      I don’t know much about the glock story, but a 3-D printed plastic gun has been made. The blue-prints were pulled off the internet, but the genie is out of the bottle. It can hold and fire one round, there which after, the barrel might be damaged.

      As for comparing distracted driving with drunk driving, I agree with the story. The two are both bad but they can’t be equated. Follow the money.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        If you click the video, you will see her telling a blatant lie about Glock.

        Period, point blank.

        There’s no excuse for it, there’s no amelioration.

        She’s simply lying.

        • 0 avatar
          WheelMcCoy

          Perhaps not exactly the amelioration you’re looking for, but she does say up until 2013, the threat of the undetectable gun was theoretical.

          The link is set 3 minutes into the segment where she says that:

          https://youtu.be/ZgYuHrs5G58?t=3m

          Watch from the beginning if you want to see her mention Glock, where she describes it as light in weight and *almost* all plastic. And continue on to see the ever improving plastic gun.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        “a 3-D printed plastic gun has been made”

        Being 3-D printed means nothing. People use that to make the idea/product sound advanced. Usually, they aren’t.

        To do what a gun needs to do, it still needs a metal barrel. Likewise, non-metal ammo is less effective. I am more scared of knives and clubs than any plastic gun.

  • avatar
    Curt in WPG

    Here in Manitoba it’s a $200 fine and five demerits. There is some talk of making it a $1000 fine. The police were cruising ticketing people stopped waiting over 10 minutes for a train to pass. Photo radar revenue is down so they have to meet budget quotas somehow. ****ers.

    Of course it’s ALL about safety though…

    • 0 avatar
      sproc

      They’re called “demerits” in Canada?!? That’s fantastic. It sounds like if you get enough tickets, a nun will have to spank you with a ruler.

    • 0 avatar
      Monty

      I work on the edge of downtown Winnipeg, and several weeks ago within the madness of Portage Ave. construction the WPS had a couple of officers dressed exactly as the fellow in the photo above ticketing those with cellphones in their hands.

      According to my daughter-in-law, who also got busted, the phone didn’t even have to be being held, just powered-on while sitting in the console and it warranted a ticket.

      At times the traffic didn’t move for several traffic light cycles, which was prime hunting grounds for the police. It was like watching people fish from barrels.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        If I knew the traffic would be stopped for several light cycles, a long train, whatever, I’d put my car in “Park,” and shut it off. (Might even unbuckle to stretch, but that that’d be another ticket!)

  • avatar
    NotFast

    Nice post, Jack!

  • avatar
    319583076

    This is the second story of this kind I’ve seen this week. In the other story, cops were posing as homeless people including carrying cardboard signs saying, “I’m a police officer looking for distracted drivers” in black sharpie.

    I also agree 100% with Jack, this is shameless cash-grabbing. With the sort of scrutiny police are under recently, I can’t imagine these covert-ops to bust distracted drivers stories are doing positive PR for any police. The upside? Maybe bad press and citizen action will start to swing the pendulum the other way. Maybe…

    • 0 avatar
      Mullholland

      Can fake crossing-guards be far behind? Undercover utility workers? And if local law enforcement ever figures out a way to incentivize (revenue sharing) the car-seat brigade many of us will have ride-along enforcement in the backseat.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I don’t know about these new highly integrated cars, but if your car can take a traditional single or double DIN screen, ~$300-500 will get you a head unit that will essentially turn into a “remote desktop” of your phone. Which really drives the absurdity of it all home. That’s what I plan to do though. Throw my phone in my glovebox and use my in dash receiver as a screen.

    • 0 avatar
      fvfvsix

      What’s absurd is the 15 inch laptops most cops seem to be using while driving here in AZ. I’m pretty sure I’m far less distracted using Prime Music on my iPhone than they are looking at a database on their friggin’ toughbook.

      • 0 avatar
        wolfinator

        I once saw a cop watching a movie on his laptop, while driving. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

        It was at night, and I just happened to pull up behind him on my way home. I tooled behind him for at least 10 city blocks while he cruised along in his mobile movie theater.

        Maybe it was a training video or something. All I know is that he was definitely engaging in “distracted driving”.

      • 0 avatar
        derekson

        I’ve seen cops playing Windows Solitaire on their in-car laptops while driving.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Shameless cash grab. Yeah we ask for it every time we don’t show up in court to fight it. I do it too. If you come home and your dogs chewed up your favorite sneakers, what do you do? Tell him what a good boy he is and give him a treat??

  • avatar
    Chris FOM

    From my understanding those “alcohol related” numbers are also inflated quite a bit. If an accident occurs and any party has any detectable alcohol the accident goes down as “alcohol-related.” Guy had one beer, is sitting at a red light, and gets rear-ended by a completely sober driver? Alcohol-related. Passenger had too much but had a DD who gets in a wreck? Alcohol-related. It’s blatant manipulation of the numbers to make the problem look worse than it actually is.

  • avatar
    cartunez

    The real issue is for the past 30 years the US has “bulked up” on the police state. You now have a situation where you have more police than you need for any realistic situation for just in case of a “terrorist” attack. Budgets are busting at the seams and rather than show tax payers the true cost of paranoia they are becoming more creative with ways to fleece the population. Everyday it should be more and more painfully obvious to even the braindead that we have a police problem in this country. This will not stop even if cars drive themselves and we invent personal forcefields. The beast has to be fed and it feeds on you.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    I rise in praise of the Popo. We now have to wait longer at green lights because the gals(it’s you mostly, ladies) are looking down and reading, not noticing the light has turned green. I regularly have to accommodate texting drivers who are one error away from a collision. No deaths recorded here, but what about safety or damage to property? These cops ambushing stopped traffic have also achieved great publicity now that more media has covered the story of this new tactic. People are talking and becoming more aware, maybe even that gal passing me while weaving through traffic and texting last week on a dangerous and curvy stretch of highway that’s regularly staked out by police looking for speeders. And where was she going? To get on line at the exit ramp during rush hour.

    • 0 avatar
      Dingleberrypiez_Returns

      Thank god a voice of reason. I’ll disagree that it’s mostly women- this applies to all genders and demographics. Anyone who commutes in traffic regularly knows this is a growing annoyance… it’s painfully obvious which drivers are composing texts or reading emails or doing who knows what; delayed reaction to green lights/openings, leaving longer gaps between cars, and generally driving poorly. Is this a big safety issue? Probably not. But it does exacerbate existing traffic issues and makes the commute so, so much more annoying.

      I am 100% in favor of the type of police enforcement described in this article.

  • avatar
    Dan

    I wouldn’t be so quick to hold up DUI as the legitimate safety enforcement that cellphone revenue enforcement isn’t.

    The great majority of DUI crashes occur at the hands of literal drunks. The NHTSA says that the most common blood alcohol level among drivers who had been drinking and were involved in a fatal crash was 0.17%, which is to say finishing off a 12 pack by yourself before the third quarter ends. That’s not buzzed. That’s too chitfaced to walk.

    In the face of this, the prohibitionists at MADD redefined drunk driving from drunks to .08 social drinkers and are hard at work on knocking that down to .05 which is to say anyone who drank anything at all. That’s every bit the affront to logic as pretending that 74 in a 65 is a subset of street racing in front of the elementary school.

    On top of that, DUI enforcement is typically via Friday night checkpoints where, if you read the paper the next morning, you’ll see that police stopped 484 vehicles, made 3 drunk driving arrests, maybe nabbed an outstanding warrant, but more importantly wrote 81 tickets for burned out tail lights and expired registrations.

    I don’t think much of drunks whether they’re driving or not but the DUI enforcement we’ve got now is just another driving tax like speeding already is and texting soon will be.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Here is what they do in Boston. On pedestrian crossing, they use a girl dressed in running/exercise wear. She approaches the crossing and if you don’t stop, she radio to the police ahead. Rest is history. PedX in Boston is $200 or more. And bunch of points, etc.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    Distracted driving *is* a problem.

    Two days ago, I was in theft lane of the Meadowbrook Parkway on Long Island and, having finished passing the slower car in the middle lane, I signaled right, looked and began to change lanes. Just then, a guy in the right lane did one of those ultra-quick lane changes into the open space that I was moving into. I quickly corrected, moving back into the left lane. A few seconds later, I came up alongside him and he was holding his cell phone in his right hand and staring at it, with only the occasional very brief glance at the road. This persisted for a bit and he even ignored my attempt to get his attention, he was so focused on his damned phone. So I drifted back into his blind spot and leaned on my horn. Still nothing. At point I made sure there was a lot of room between him and me.

    Yes, I know I shouldn’t have pulled that last stunt, but my reasoning is that, perhaps, he had some sense of self-preservation that could be accessed by appealing to the reptile part of his brain.

    Having said all that, lazy policing and skewing enforcement toward maximizing revenue over actual public safety deserves all the ridicule we can heap on the practitioners thereof.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I have been hit by a driver who was distracted by her cell phone, and my mother was nearly killed in an accident that was caused by a cell phone conversation leading to a flagrant running of a red light. I have little sympathy for cracking down on cell phone use in cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Depends on the situation, of course. If I’m cruising down an empty highway, I have no problem using my cell. If I’m driving in urban traffic, hell no. Even though both are “driving”, they require very different levels of attention.

      I wouldn’t want a surgeon who’s operating on me to be talking on his cell, even if it’s hands free. Same goes for the idiot who’s tailgating me.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    I’ve also noticed heavier TRAFFIC policing on wealthier neighborhoods, as compared to poorer areas.

    I had assumed this was related to the backwardness of my south Texas town, but now I sigh in relief with the knowledge that a****les are everywhere.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I’m fine with using unusual methods to bust text-drivers, yesterday I ended up behind some crumb who was during 40 on the highway, nose stuck in his phone like it was a $500 bill.

    This is why it should be legal to equip your car with a train horn, or really anything to alert people.

    And no, a manual wouldn’t help here, manuals cant cure stupidity.

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    As long as they target enough teens and 20-something girls in mommy and daddy’s SUV (the most dangerous combination in all of automotive-dom) I’m fine with it.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Jack, I think you should write one of your pieces about disposable fashion, privilege and cars – and discuss the Rag & Bone ad where they hulksmash a 79 911SC.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvJLAq8vGGc

  • avatar
    rustyra24

    Now nobody will open their windows for construction workers. That could possibly cause an accident.

    Doesn’t this qualify as entrapment?

    What happens somebody sits on the side of the road with a sign calling out the fake construction officer?

  • avatar
    rocketrodeo

    As a motorcyclist living in a town dominated by its college, I am all for reducing distracted driving by any means necessary. I take it personally, as I have lost friends to distracted drivers. Seriously, just drive. if you are compelled to use your distractions while nominally piloting your two-ton weapon, you should probably ensure they conform to local laws — use a bluetooth headset at minimum. A voice command infotainment system that integrates your device of choice with no thought required on your part is your best bet if you’re actually concerned about not hurting your fellow motorists.

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      Got news, bruh. If your needlessly dangerous motorcycling habit gets in the way of their distracted driving, motorcycles will be outlawed. Regulators certainly aren’t going to protect our minority rights. Fly under the radar or you’re going to ruin it for all of us.

      • 0 avatar
        rocketrodeo

        Thirty years and coming up on 600,000 miles on two wheels, with no injuries beyond bruises and sprains, pretty well defines flying below the radar. What I’ve seen change in the past five years with regard to driver focus on task makes me seriously consider hanging it up except for recreation–at least until we treat distracted driving as the serious problem that it is, given it’s costing us a WTC’s worth of our citizens each year. I happen to work in transportation safety research, so I feel like I’m doing my part. DSRC comms, both V2V and V2I, is coming down the pike for everyone.

        • 0 avatar
          Jack Baruth

          The last person who ran me off the freeway was looking straight ahead and holding her wheel with both hands. She just didn’t mentally accept the existence of motorcycles.

          • 0 avatar
            rocketrodeo

            I’ve been lucky in that every time I’ve been inadvertently displaced on the freeway I’ve seen it coming so I had an out. The admonition to “ride like you’re invisible” sounds trite to drivers, but after a few years of near-daily validation of the truth of this, it simply becomes your MO. The skills come in handy for the times when someone actively tries to kill you.

    • 0 avatar
      Shane Rimmer

      I ride, too, and don’t care a bit about people looking at their phones while stopped. Furthermore, I hate that the anti-texting laws have people looking at their laps rather than holding the phones up near the steering wheel. If they are going to text, it’d be nice if the phone was close to being in the line of sight of the road.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    The cops here in Ohio won’t do the construction-zone scheme. They’d need to be out of their air conditioned Chargers in the humidity too long. And they harvest more revenue as Jack points out.

  • avatar
    TW5

    We need moar victimless crimes and moar citizens with criminal records. For the good of our commune, make distracting driving a crime like driving under the influence.

    I only wish they had a sign in the construction zone that said:

    Tired of sitting in traffic? Call (866) XXX-XXXX

  • avatar
    Rick Astley

    I preferred Baron Sengir over Sengir Vampire. But then again, starting during Alpha while growing up 5 miles from WOtC HQ has it’s advantages.

  • avatar

    I’m willing to bet $100 that Marietta officer Nick Serkedakis routinely uses a cellphone behind the wheel both while on duty and off duty.

    I’ve always been struck by the irony of a cop radioing in that he’s pulling you over for cellphone use.

    The thing is, the studies that the nannies cite about distracting driving say that training doesn’t reduce distraction from using electronic devices. NHTSA says that they are inherently distracting.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    Nope, distracted is distracted. People can’t be given the choice to “just don’t use it while you are in motion, stopped is ok.” They will then give total disregard to the law and the law will have no bite. I take it no one here has lost a loved one/friend to a distracted driver. I am sure you wouldn’t agree with the author so much. Distracted driving is killing people and not by a small percentage. In order to change people’s habits, there has to be pain- otherwise, they don’t care. I can picture a bimbo at the wheel, with one hand on the wheel and the other hand holding a cell phone- “What was that? Did I hit something?”, while she is parked on top of a motorcycle and it’s rider. I DON’T want that to be me or anyone I know. I like Alaska’s 10K fine approach.. let it sting. Texting and LOL’ing have no place behind the wheel.

  • avatar
    King of Eldorado

    Based on the YouTube video linked above, Rachel Maddow DID NOT repeat a claim that a Glock 17 could go through a metal detector undetected. She said that in the 1980s Glock had perfected technology that would allow them to do this, but she did not connect it to the Glock 17 or any other handgun that was being actually manufactured. That’s a big difference. As the video narrator goes on to explain, the Glock 17 is detectable and is legal under the legislation passed by Congress. Since the video was made in 2011, someone went on to 3D-print and fire an all-plastic gun, so the issue is at least worthy of discussion.

    It’s annoying that Baruth misrepresents what a liberal journalist said just to demonstrate his contrary political views that have nothing to do with the subject at hand.

    Finally, FWIW, Maddow is one of the very few TV journalists who actually takes time to correct on-air the few errors her show makes.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      I’m not surprised Jack doesn’t care for Maddow, but I’m disappointed he misrepresented what she said to call her a liar.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        Of course xe’s a liar. (Do we say “she” for Maddow?)

        Glock never so much as prototyped an all-plastic gun and the way xe said it was designed to imply that Glock’s (non-existent) prototype became their plastic production gun.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          I’m sorry, but you did take her out of context, although she didn’t quite get it entirely right, either.

          This is the transcript, which is longer than your YouTube gun nut’s excerpt:

          http://www.nbcnews.com/id/41157187/ns/msnbc-rachel_maddow_show/t/rachel-maddow-show-tuesday-january-th/

          What she was grousing about was Dick Cheney’s failure to support the 2000 renewal of the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988, which required that guns have a minimal amount of metal so that they could not avoid detection.

          That legislation was originally prompted by the development of the Glock 17. There were concerns that terrorists would be able to bring guns through airport security if they contained too much plastic.

          To my knowledge, Glock never claimed to have a gun entirely made of plastic. She got that wrong.

          On the other hand, a gun doesn’t have to be made entirely of plastic in order to raise concerns, so you are mischaracterizing the essence of her argument, which is about banning guns that can’t evade detection. It’s not as if she would favor guns that can evade detection but that aren’t made of plastic.

        • 0 avatar
          RideHeight

          So I looked up xe.

          Expanding that to a table of personal pronouns takes a bit of modding but I came up with:

          Singular

          Subjective: xai, xou, xe/xit
          Possessive: xy/xine, xour(s), xer(s), xit(s)
          Objective: xme, xou, xer/xit

          Plural

          Subjective: xwe, xou, xey
          Possessive: xar(s), xour(s), xeir(s)
          Objective: xus, xou, xem

          I guess with those few mods it works OK, but if we could dump neuter as well as male genders we wouldn’t have to be saying “xit(s)” all the time.

        • 0 avatar
          King of Eldorado

          Baruth: I’ll take your question about whether to use “she” in reference to Rachel Maddow as seriously asked and not just a lame attempt at humor of the type my 7th grade friends would have found hilarious back in 1964. Every reputable source I’ve come across refers to Rachel as “she,” including her Wikipedia entry in reference to her holding a doctorate from Oxford University among many other accomplishments. So yes, go ahead and use “she.” Your desire to be politically correct in this matter is admirable, even though the whole issue could have been avoided had you not gratuitously inserted a 4+ year-old comment by her into an article that concerns an entirely different subject.

          You also probably ought to know that many of us LGBT car people read TTAC regularly and find this sort of juvenile, “har-de-har-har” innuendo about a person’s very being nothing more than thinly disguised bigotry. Oh, and also fyi, we’re now in the 21st century.

          • 0 avatar
            Jack Baruth

            I’m not sure what’s more hilarious: your attempt to paint the only person in this business who has ever hired a transgender editor as a bigot or your description of Maddow as possessing “many accomplishments”.

            Given Maddow’s aggressive asexuality, it’s reasonable to ask if Maddow continues to use the female gender in language.

            And since we’re in “the 21st century”, you also know that plenty of people take offense to not having their preferred Tumblr pronouns used. Old straight cisgender white oppressors like me didn’t invent garbage like “xe”. Progressives did.

          • 0 avatar

            “That’s not funny!”
            “Shut up!” they explained.

            So now pronouns are supposed to reflect “a person’s very being”?

            From now on I want my personal pronoun to be “wise one”.

            Those of us who know Jack personally know how silly you just sounded accusing him of bigotry against LGBT folks.

          • 0 avatar
            King of Eldorado

            OK, one more go at this. Baruth: I can’t speak to or for other persons’ “preferred Tumblr pronouns,” whatever that means, but I have never heard Maddow herself or anyone speaking on her behalf claim that she wants to be referred to as “xe.” You pulled that out of thin air in a lame attempt to ridicule her and discredit her 4-year-old mostly accurate comments about an irrelevant potential problem with plastic guns. Your apparent belief that you’re entitled to a pass on this because you hired a transgender editor was not evident in your article, and in any event comes across as one of those Huckabee-like “Some of my best friends are _____” responses.

            Schreiber (sorry — “Wise One”): You have it exactly backwards. It’s the person’s status as, e.g., a somewhat stereotype-masculine-appearing lesbian that is part of her “very being.” To take that status and extrapolate from it, “She’s therefore probably the type who insists on the use of ‘xe’ and that’s something we can freely make fun of as progressivism run amok,” with exactly zero evidence that that is the case, comes across as a disrespectful and juvenile (no offense to juveniles intended) appeal to readers’ baser instincts.

    • 0 avatar
      fvfvsix

      Glock never “perfected the technology” to do this either. Doing so flies in the face of proper gunmaking. It’s a lie, whether you like Maddow or not.

      If you want to discuss wacky stuff like 3D printed single use firearms, you also have to discuss their usefulness in the absence of 3D printed, plastic ammunition. In other words, why bother. I can make an AK-47 without a 3D printer, and it’ll work more than once. What’s your point?

  • avatar

    Considering I almost got into a front end collision with some dumb broad in a giant SUV tip tapping away at her cell phone this morning who wandered directly into my lane on a 2-lane road, more power to these people. Put your fucking phone down.

  • avatar
    Don Mynack

    Austin, TX has cell phone ban go into effect Jan 1, 2015. The result?

    “This year has seen an increase in overall crashes during its first six months, compared to the same period in 2014, but relatively few of the wrecks so far this year were cellphone-related. According to the Austin Police Department, only 48 crashes this year reportedly involved a cellphone. Many more fatal crashes were caused by intoxicated driving — 1,033 this year involved alcohol.”

    That’s right – the cell phone ban led to fewer crashes where cell phones were present, but led to more crashes overall, implying that cell phone use had little to do with crash rates in the first place. Cell phones are present at a lot of accidents because everyone has a cell phone, not because drivers are using them in an unsafe manner.

    http://www.chron.com/news/texas/article/Police-Full-impact-of-Austin-s-hands-free-law-6407704.php

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      You’ve taken some massive logical leaps there.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        The problem I see here is its very easy to prove someone was drunk at the scene of an accident (breath, blood, road side test), however proving they were using their phone at the time is way more difficult. After an accident nobody is going to admit “yes Mr. Office I was playing Angry Birds when…” I bet a lot more accidents happen due to phones then any statistic will show. The only proof might be call or chat logs, beyond that there is nothing other then maybe eyewitnesses which are iffy at best.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        There are a lot of problems with Don Mynack’s comment, but here are just a few of them:

        -This information doesn’t tell us why the number of crashes increased. Linking them to the phone law or another magic bullet is impossible without more information.

        -Safety is assessed by measuring crash **rates*** on a per mile basis. For all we know, the crash rate went down even as the number of crashes increased.

        -Austin is experiencing low unemployment and high population growth, so it would not be surprising if the number of crashes increased. The better the economy, the more wrecks.

        Not enough information is provided here to assess anything. Correlation is not causation, particularly when you are cherry-picking your correlation factor. (You don’t know what else may have changed over the period.)

        Incidentally, I’m not a proponent of phone bans, but let’s not misinterpret factoids, either.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    With all the BS technology being added to cars these days, often in the name of “safety,” better, more stable, and user friendly bluetooth applications should be completely standardized and implemented by now.

    Someone should be able to integrate their phone into a new car’s BT in less than one minute. No reason that it still involves so much menu-jumping.

    Text-to-speech and speech-to-text already exist. Can’t stop folks from playing candy crush, but at the very least there should be no reason to ever touch your phone for talking or texting in any new car available today.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    PoPo collecting revenue for “distracted motionlessness” is pretty sad, but in terms of distracted driving, I think a big problem is the generation who don’t understand realities or consequences of their actions.

    A few years ago my stepdaughter, running late for work, was sending her boss a text message while driving 90MPH on the interstate. Two wheels went off the road shoulder but she managed to recover. She later told her mother, who told me, who then proceeded to verbally ream her a new one for being so goddamn stupid. She can’t understand the physics of a 4000 pound van losing control at 90 miles per hour (132 feet per second always seems to put it in better perspective for the younguns).

    God, I remember when I had to break her out of not wearing a seatbelt. I slammed on the brakes HARD going about 15 in a parking lot, causing her forehead to meet the dash unpleasantly. “So,” I said’ “that’s me hitting the brakes at 15. Now imagine if we were on the highway going 60. You’d be a grease spot right now. If you’re LUCKY you’ll just be paralyzed for life. But, probably dead.” She wasn’t happy but she’s worn her seat belt ever since.

  • avatar
    John

    I think it’s kind of odd that you can get a ticket for looking at your phone’s screen – when just about every new vehicle comes with a touchscreen for the “infotainment system”.

  • avatar
    asapuntz

    Here in WA, the cellphone ticket isn’t even a moving violation, never mind being comparable to a DUI – or the thin edge of gov’t tyranny via gun control?!

    The policeman who caught me (fair and square) even asked who I was talking to, presumably because a call to 911 would be permissible?

    So it’s a fine that discourages what we all agree is a bad behavior. Slippery slope indeed.

  • avatar
    RRocket

    Jack,

    I think you need to further refine your numbers, since distracted driving encompasses everything from playing with the radio, HVAC, eating or merely talking to a passenger. I quick search yielded these stats from the NHTSA, though they are from 2011. It gives more firepower to your argument.

    Total killed: 32,367

    Drunk: 9,878
    Distracted: 3,337
    Distracted by Mobile Device: 387

    Here’s the study. http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811737.pdf

    Looks like TTAC did a piece on the study with a nice infographic! https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/distracted-driving-an-infographic/

  • avatar
    ajla

    Can I still use my CB?

  • avatar
    SC5door

    A family member of mine was rear ended by a young lady at 50 MPH when he was stopped for a red light a few years back. The accident investigation showed that she was watching videos on Facebook when she ran into the back of his car—she never touched the brake once.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Friday morning last, I looked down from my high traffic vantage point at the car to my left in the outside left turn lane. The young woman in her GMC Terrain, about fourth in line, same as me, was looking down at her phone furiously wiggling her thumbs. The turn signal gave the green arrow and the inside turn lane got moving first as the outside turn lane had a truck in the lead which was slowly lumbering to get up to speed. The 20-something young woman caught the forward movement of traffic in her peripheral vision, stepped on the gas and ran straight into the car in front of her as it waited for the outside lane to get moving.

    Anecdotal, sure. And not a serious collision. But completely unavoidable, were it not for her undivided concentration on her cell phone whilst stopped at the light.

    She took the worst of it. Her GMC’s grille crunched straight into the rear bumper and hitch of a Ford work van. Karmic justice? Maybe, but could have just as easily been a motorcyclist in front of her.

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    quoting the article:

    “Anytime you’re in the road, in the roadway, you’re in gear and in control of the roadway. Even reading it falls under the code section as well,” one officer told a driver.”

    So in gear is required? Manual tranny drivers idling in neutral are OK?

    Also I like the approach of my state. The law specifically says that distracted driving does not apply when you are “legally stopped” for example at a stoplight or construction zone like this one.


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