Friday, April 24, 2009

The wireless drunk

Looking for your Thematic fix? Head here. Otherwise, please read on.
Big news in the happy land of Ontario this week: Bill 118* was passed into law. It mandates fines of up to $500 for anyone who talks on a handheld device while driving. Police will begin enforcing the law, which also bans fiddling with DVD players, handheld video games (!) and MP3 players, this autumn.

You won't get a ticket if you're using a headset. Nor will you get a ticket if you're using a GPS device. I looked for mention of hot plates, toaster ovens and automatic Kleenex dispensers. Alas, couldn't find 'em, so I suspect those are still OK, as is changing a baby hippo's diaper in the front seat.

As happy as I am that our government has taken time out from soaking the citizenry to make our lives safer, I'm pretty convinced the roads will be just as dangerous as they are now. Here's where I stand:
Any conversation while you're at the wheel reduces your concentration on the task at hand - namely keeping your vehicle from violently fusing with other movable and/or immovable objects around you. Study after study shows a driver's ability to focus on driving is just as compromised whether he/she is talking on a handheld, talking on a Bluetooth headset, talking with a significant other or simply yelling at the kids.

Some research has even concluded that cell-phone yakkers are just as lousy at the wheel as drunk drivers. I'm not inclined to disagree.
So, our dear all-powerful leaders, if you're truly intent on cleaning things up on the road, I invite you to consider enacting a law that bans ANY interaction at all while driving. And that includes talking to yourself. Obtuse and ridiculous? Sure. But it might make an actual difference where the current swiss cheese law will not.

Your turn: Are you sick of almost being wiped off the face of the earth by someone too busy ordering pizza to keep his/her eye on the road? If toothless legislation doesn't do the trick, what will? Vigilante justice? Please vent.

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* Because governments aren't happy until they've confused us all with unnecessarily ponderous language, the official name of this thing is: Bill 118, Countering Distracted Driving and Promoting Green Transportation Act, 2009. I couldn't make this up if I tried.

13 comments:

bobbie said...

I so agree with you! Talking on a headset is every bit as dangerous - as is arguing with someone in the car, for that matter.

Chris said...

Having been driven batty by the habits of inattentive drivers here on the left coast, I'd be all for something would get their minds back on the road. That being said, how the heck is something like this enforced anyway? Things that make you go hmm...

BTW: Netchick sent me. She's good like that.

kcinnova said...

I'm relieved that I can still change my baby hippo's diaper, because, whoooo-eee, was it getting stinky!!


There are so very many distractions while we are driving. (I've banned my kids from pillow fights in the back seat.) Frankly, I'm surprised that we aren't all in an "accident" every week. We all have things that distract us from the important task at hand: managing the momentum of a several thousand pound vehicle!

My state has made a law (becomes active on July 1st) that you cannot text message while driving. Obviously, common sense is now uncommon since a law had to be made about it. The good news is, I see a car pulled off to the side of the road nearly every day, the driver being sensible enough to get off the road before using the phone or other handheld device.

Pamela said...

or the radio station, shaving, reading a book, putting on make up.

But, by far the largest number of dangerous drivers doing something other than driving is talking on their cell phone. And a lot of them are teenagers.

I saw on the news last week that a man in Houston tried to answer his cell phone, veered off the road, and drowned 5 kids in a canal.

Cloudia said...

We here in Honolulu are adapting the same law. About time too!
Remember when driving was a serious thing? I think those who grew up on video games believe that accidents are just a "reset."
Aloha, Carmi

M.Kate said...

Interesting blog..the like the thematic post.

momemts in time said...

Negotiating a roundabout whilst shaving (fortunately not wet shaving with a cut throat razor) and putting on make up are the two worst solo ones ~ but also those with a dog on the dashboard or their lap and turning round to see to the child in the rear seat.

But what about the car with 100+ decibels of 'music?' blaring out and the driver oblivious to anything else and probably almost deaf.

David said...

ADD people and schizophrenics insist on the right to talk to our selves. I once worked for a guy who wrote his 'lists' on the windshield in dry erase markers.... hey that reminds me I need to buy parakeet food.

dennisthemennis.co.uk said...

here in the UK no-one seems to really care, I think you get a £60 fine if your caught. I personally think its offensive seeing people texting & talking whilst driving.

There is only one way to stop it and thats to ban these people for a year if they get caught no questions asked, things would soon change.

I just hope they dont ban arguing with yourself as I often do whilst driving or singing should that be banned.

To my horror I nearly wiped a lady out the other day who was not concentrating as she pulled out into the main road, she said she was sorry I just shouted stuff at her and I feel guilty now.

colleen said...

The only thing I think is a problem is texting while driving. I did my first text on Joe's phone the other night. It took some concentration. I would hope those using a cellphone or bluetooth would make the call quick and get on with it. If I'm busy navigating and unsure of where I am I don't even want a radio playing.

Sleepypete said...

Gamespy ran a "5 most dangerous gadgets" story over the weekend, one of the gadgets in their list was an in-car adaptor for a Nintendo Wii ...

So that's a game console being hooked up in a car that depends on hand gestures to control it. But what made it a lot worse was that the power lead was too short to get the Wii into the back seat and the makers were also selling gadgets to allow the driver to play Wii ...

PS We have that no-mobiles law over here but I don't think it gets enforced. There's still plenty of idiots out there who think it's acceptable to drive while phoning. And they give funny looks when you hoot them (hooting them also tells the person they're talking to that they're driveby-phoning)

Catherine said...

Actually there are quite a few studies which show that talking to someone else in the car is not as dangerous as talking on a cell phone, because the other person can see when you need to concentrate on, say a tricky intersection, and will pause the conversation to let you do so. That probably doesn't apply to arguments though.
Talking on a hands free set is pretty much as distracting as a hand held phone.
There was an interesting case in the UK a while back, where handheld phones have been banned for quite a while. A flock of chickens escaped from a truck all over a motorway, and motorists were using their cellphone cameras to take photos, and were fined. But curiously, if they'd used regular cameras, it wouldn't have been illegal

Colin Purrington said...

Here's some signage that might make you happy:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/cpurrin1/3741872453/