Skip to main content

Distracted Driving is not Hilarious

Straight Outta Suburbia has a great post about how backward the thinking has gotten toward parking and traffic violations in America:
Remember applying for jobs? There's often a question about criminal history that will read something like "have you ever been convicted of a crime except for a minor traffic violation?" I've decided I really hate the premise of this question. What is a "minor" traffic violation? I've got a new premise. If you're in traffic, there are no minor violations. Motor vehicles have the power to maim and kill. Accordingly, we should have a humorless attitude about the safety laws that apply to them.
On the topic of safety and humor. It's been an interesting week regarding traffic safety. First we got this Pew report which shows that adults text while driving at a rate higher than you'd expect. Then on Monday the front page of USA Today published a chart (no permalink available) that shows 'activities people have done while driving' - with the results as:
  • 72% - eaten sandwiches, burgers
  • 29% - kissed
  • 28% - sent texts
  • 23% - taken off clothes
And it's worth bearing in mind that these numbers are conservative, because people actually had to admit to doing them.

(from Flickr user poka0059)

What's worse is how many people describe these statistics as 'fun' or 'funny'. It's really not. People are effectively admitting that they are bad/dangerous drivers. And the worst part is that they probably think of themselves as good or excellent drivers, because thusfar they have multitasked in this way without negative consequences. As Tom Vanderbilt notes in his book Traffic, every time a person drives someplace and doesn't get into a wreck, it bolsters their confidence in their driving skill, even if they had close-calls that could have potentially ended much differently.

This suggests something important about traffic safety. Whenever there is a wreck, whether between cars, bicyclists, pedestrians, or whoever, it's immediately labeled and almost always later described as an 'accident'. But that's not always accurate, because an accident is something that happens ' without an apparent cause'. If someone is texting or changing clothes or eating food and then they smash into something or someone, that's not an accident; that's a wreck caused by the fact that the driver is not operating the vehicle appropriately.

Consider this: if a first-time driver went to the state BMV and in the middle of the final 'road test' started chomping on a sandwich or shooting off text messages, would the state officer deem this person competent enough to possess a drivers license?


Chewie said…
Thanks for the shout out! I hope those devices that disable phones using GPS while a car is moving become mandatory.
MissShona said…
I am guilty of sending an occasional text while driving, and it is incredibly distracting. For better or for worse, my daily commute is through rural areas where there are only a few other motor vehicles around.

I rented a car earlier this year that came with a GPS unit that did not work while driving. Honestly I found this very annoying (my own car's GPS does not do this); and if I needed to readjust my route, I had to just pull over.

I was in a very bad car accident caused by a negligent driver (I was in the hospital for 5 weeks). However I don't think bans and laws are the answer necessarily. People will find something else to do (shaving, doing hair/makeup, talking to kids, etc.) in the interim.

Popular posts from this blog

In Praise of Southwest's 'C' Boarding Group

A few weeks ago I saw a tweet from someone complaining that their Southwest Airlines boarding pass had been assigned A20 (meaning they would be at least one of the first twenty passengers to board the plane). Apparently this person though they should have been assigned a higher number, less their flight experience be considerably spoiled.

Despite the complaints, Southwest has resisted demands to assign seats on its flights, a decision which I personally applaud. I'll admit that I was skeptical when they rolled out the newest boarding procedure, assigning both boarding groups and a line number; but in hindsight it seems like one of the best operational decisions they've ever made. If nothing else, it effectively eliminated the infamous "cattle call" whereby fliers were getting to airports hours in advance and sitting in line on the floor as if they were waiting for the midnight showing of the new Star Wars movie.

When I was an intern at Southwest Airlines last winter, I…

So You Want to be a Southwest Airlines Intern?

My personal website must have pretty decent SEO - because in the past year, I've received about two dozen emails from aspiring Southwest Airlines interns looking to draw on my experience in search of their own dream internship. In the past two weeks alone a few new emails have already started rolling in...

(from flickr user San Diego Shooter)

If you've found your way here, you might be hoping for the silver bullet; a secret tip that will propel you above the competition. Unfortunately, I do not know any inside secrets. I can only share my experience as an internship candidate about two years ago and, rather than responding individually to future emails I anticipate to receive, I hope that potential interns will find the information posted here valuable.

Understand: Southwest Airlines is a very unique company. The corporate culture at Southwest is truly unlike that of nearly every other company. But you probably already knew that, since it now seems mandatory for every management,…

Commuting Meets Technology

I'm finally out of the dark ages. I got an Android smartphone over the weekend and have since been in the process of exploring the Android apps market.  One thing I've immediately noticed is the really wide range of usefulness in the apps. For example, the WeatherBug app is fantastic. It automatically determines your location and gives you exact conditions for that location. On the other end of the spectrum, Google's Goggles app is supposed to be a type of 'visual search' where you snap of photo of something and Google searches for it. In each of my attempts to use it, the app hasn't returned any search results. I even took a photo of a bottle of Pepsi (figuring it as a common houseful item) and got nothing.

Somewhere in the middle is this app called Waze. Have a look at their 'guided tour':

Some people might look at it and comment on the amazing evolution of technology or on the incredible value of social networks. To me, Waze says something important ab…