No-text-and-drive Bill Too Weak

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - December 03, 2008
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The proposal by City Councilman Charles Djou to ban texting and playing video games while driving makes some sense - but doesn’t go far enough. Why leave out the activity most prevalent on Hawaii roads? Isn’t talking on a cell phone while driving a much bigger problem?

Confess. How many of you have had phones pressed to your ear while almost sideswiping, cutting off or rear-ending another car? How many of you have missed a turn, a parking lot entrance or a freeway exit because you were so busy chatting you weren’t paying attention? Raise your hands if you’re guilty.

I thought so. That’s an awful lot of hands, including my own.

That’s why the cell phone ban thing has been tried before and failed, not once but several times. No doubt it’s because almost all of us, including the lawmakers, are guilty of DWC (driving while cell-talking). We love it. We depend on it. We do it knowing full well it’s bad for us, but we just can’t help it. Isn’t that the very definition of addiction? We can’t stop! Somebody, please make us!


 

We need an intervention, but this texting bill isn’t it, not the way it’s currently written. It’s a weird and wimpy compromise that soothes us into believing we’re actually addressing the problem when everybody knows it won’t change a lot of behaviors. Even local law enforcement is leery of it. They see problems with enforcement. How do you tell if somebody’s tapping out a message or punching in a phone number? Is one more dangerous than the other? Ban them both.

I really don’t understand the reasoning behind another compromise under consideration by Djou- exempting commercial truck drivers from the ban. If there’s anything we don’t want, it’s the driver of a three-ton truck distracted by receiving or sending a text message. Let’s face it: A texting truck driver (say that fast three times) who loses control could crush us non-texters in our puny little cars in an instant. The argument is that it’s inconvenient or impossible for these drivers to pull their rigs over to the side of the road to send or receive a message. Well, so what? If we are truly concerned about the safety issue, then the law should apply to all. The only exceptions should be for scenarios involving health and safety.

Djou has said he would gladly change the language of the bill to strengthen it, but only if it has a reasonable chance of passage, which means his fellow councilmembers would have to support it. If they don’t step up, I really don’t see the point of the bill at all. Sure, we could hope that most people will obey. But folks are a lot more likely to ignore the law if they know they won’t get caught. We really don’t need another well-intentioned but toothless law on the books.


Finally, passing a weak bill would put police in a difficult and almost impossible position. If the law is unenforceable why expend energy and money trying to implement it? But - what happens the first time a death occurs because of someone texting while driving? Police would be blamed for not doing enough to enforce the law. Give our officers something solid to work with.

As I said, I’m not against a ban. I’m against hampering police with an ineffective and unenforceable law. I’m against a bill that talks but doesn’t deliver. I’d like to see cell phone use in cars restricted to hands-free devices. Not a perfect solution, but a better, stronger start.

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