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unintended consequences: texting ban

Idaho legislative geniuses recently joined those of many other states to ban texting while driving. It’s a perfect example of government applying simplistic solutions to complex problems.

Problem: too many drivers are thinking about something else while driving.

Solution: make a law against texting while driving. texting_crash-3x

Result: more crashes like this one that killed a 6-month-old-boy and changed many lives forever… or this recent one in Meridian.

I see it every time I drive now. Drivers with one hand on the wheel, glancing up occasionally from the base of their steering wheel to get a snapshot view of what is going on directly ahead of them. Then quickly returning their attention to the important business of texting while hiding their cell phone from those who might write them a citation for the infraction.

Do a web search on “texting while driving” or “texting crash”. One thing you will find is that the number of these crashes GOES UP when the state passes a law against it.

If the legislators were slightly smarter, they would one by one ban each distraction people can come up with from being done while driving. Then of course, drivers would find ways to hide that they were involved in those activities while driving… and the courts would add some special fine specified by law on top of the fact you killed somebody or are yourself dead.

It is widely understood that distracted driving is dangerous. People whose minds are not on the task of controlling 3,000 pounds of steel moving at ten times the speed a human athlete can run are putting everyone around them at risk. This is called threatening or dangerous behavior. It is all the same to me if they are playing games with a loaded gun in a crowded room, or if they are driving with their mind in another world.

Careless driving has been unlawful for much longer than cell phones have been available. Adding new specialized laws banning each and every possible distraction is nonsense. Studies and analysis from all over the world (one example) finds talking, even “hands free” on a cell phone is as bad as drunk driving. It doesn’t matter where your hands are, but where your mind is while threats can be counted on to come at you without warning and in unexpected ways.

Thinking and personal responsibility should be mandatory. Figuring safety can be found carrying around a legislative guidebook or having a passenger reciting applicable laws is insanity.