The drive to text

Posted: September 26, 2012 by terryvandrovec in Uncategorized
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On Friday, Sioux Falls is going to become a safer place, certainly in theory and maybe in actuality, a city ordinance that bans texting and driving going into effect. That’s right, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg – the Foo is looking out for people, too, and without taking away their buckets o’ soda.

This law will have no direct impact on me, of course, because I’d never even think of sending a text message while behind the wheel. (Looking around to see if anyone bought that.) But a … friend of mine … may or may not fidget with his phone while behind the wheel on a regular basis. He knows it’s not the smartest decision of the day, but he’s also an unrealistically busy guy and at last halfway believes that he won’t be able to get it all done in a day if he can’t be productive when on the move.

It’s alarming, really, that each 24-hour segment is jam-packed to the point that we can’t allow ourselves to do one thing at a time, that we don’t have time to enjoy a drive. Remember when people used to see going for a drive as an outing? That happened for real, it’s not just something created for a scene in “Mad Men.”

Let’s hope the texting-and-driving ban will bring back the Bluetooth earpiece.

What’s more, my friend is genuinely surprised by how much texting and emailing and tweeting has become integrated into his car time. He didn’t have all of those functions on his phone until the last five years, and now, he’s downright addicted. Just the other day, he put this to the test, challenging himself to make an errand run without touching his phone while operating his vehicle. Maybe 10 minutes into the in-town drive, he forgot all about the personal pledge and opened an email. It was instinctual. He’s practically powerless against the incoming-message chime.

To be clear, in no way is my buddy making light of the situation. In fact, he’s haunted by that PSA about the girl who died while texting the word “yeah.” That really is a tragic way to go. And that’s one of the reasons why he doesn’t feel up to leading a discussion about the legal side of this issue. That is, should the government be allowed to enact a no-texting law? There’s likely a set of stats that make it seem prudent even if banning texting and driving might – might – be akin to what Bloomberg is doing, trying to protect people from themselves. By that logic, the annual Sturgis motorcycle rally should be outlawed, too, as a handful of people die (and sometimes more) there every year. It’s a discussion that’s worth having, especially in a place like Sioux Falls, where a vast majority of the roads are open by the largest-city-in-its-state standard.

Regardless, the law will be in place by the end of the week, meaning my buddy will have to adjust; he has no intention of spending his hard-earned (and scarce) cash on distracted driving tickets. It’s going to be interesting to see how aggressive the police are in enforcing the policy and how creative drivers get in trying to circumvent the rules. For example, are you allowed to check your phone when stopped at a light? And GPS systems aren’t banned, so are you allowed to use the GPS that’s built into your phone?

While it would be easier to make like Oprah (big fan of TVFury, by the way) and avoid all phone use in the car, that seems somewhere between unlikely and impossible. We’re too attached to our phones because they are incredible tools and phenomenal toys. Well, I’m melded to a phone, but my talented and handsome friend is. The dude plans to abide, but it won’t be easy as it should be.


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