|September 29th, 2008 by Robert | Word Count: 732 | Reading Time 2:56||1,396 views|
Text while driving in California and you may be looking at red and blue lights in your mirror. Yes, those “terrible” glowing orbs of a police car signaling you to pull over. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has recently signed a bill which makes texting while driving illegal. California drivers will no longer be able to actively send text message or read them while behind the wheel without fear. Great news for the current prudent and innocent drivers on the road!
What kind of penalty does the new bill give to the newly found text message criminals? First brush with the law and you’re facing a monstrous $20 fine. Those dastardly repeat offenders will face an insurmountable $50 fine per infraction. Showing the leniency of the state, knowing that current citizens cannot simply go “cold turkey” from text messaging while driving, the law thankfully doesn’t go into effect until Jan 1, 2009. Whew, at least they have three months to straighten out their habitual need to text!
As you can see, I’m writing with a bit (well, maybe more) of sarcasm, maybe even being a little whimsical. No, it’s not that I think texting should be ok while driving. It’s that I think the fines are a little absurd… absurd in the fact that they are much too low. How can you expect people to be deterred from doing something harmful if the penalty doesn’t hurt? $20 or even $50 is nothing in the scheme of things. Also, how are the police planning on enforcing such a law? With speeding and erratic driving, it’s pretty simple to make a case against the driver. However, how can you specifically charge a driver with texting while motoring?
Are the police going to be equipped with real time text messaging logs proving the driver broke the law? We can all come up with countless excuses when Mr. Policeman shows up at our window. “I wasn’t texting, I was checking caller id.” “I wasn’t reading a text message. I was checking my call log.” The excuses will be more extravagant of course, but you get the idea.
Number one, the penalties are too low. Number two, the law isn’t enforceable in any legitimate way. This law is a simple feel good law. We all like to scream and yell at the “stupid” driver not paying attention and we would like to see them off the road or at least penalized for not paying attention, but seriously, this is not the way to do it.
Thinking off the cuff here, let’s try and focus on a technology that can remove the “need” to text message in the first place. How about coming up with some sort of technology that allows you to mount your cell phone or connect it to your car in a manner similar to how you attach your iPod these days. Car makers have invented On Star type technologies that could be utilized for personal cell phones. Jump in your car, mount your phone and then you are hands free and also text free. We have GPS devices littering our dashboards, interact them with the text messaging features. Incoming text message scrolls across the GPS like device in ticker form. To respond back, simply call back the user via the “hands free” technology.
This particular idea took me about, 2 minutes to think of and type? I’m sure there is some merit to it and it’s even a possibility that could become reality. Rather than focusing on passing feel good laws that cannot be enforced, we need to actually fix the problem and create something that will replace the problem. Instant communication is here to stay… we spent years asking for it. Now trying to penalize people for it and trying to remove it is akin to trying to put raging waters back behind the dam. It’s not going to happen.
We all want our highways to be safer than they are and admittedly, text messaging drivers have made them less safe. However, we must find a better way to stop it than slapping $20 or $50 fines from here to eternity on imprudent drivers only found guilty by sight. Speeders make the highways unsafe also, how many of them do you see pulled over? You get the idea. Nothing is going to change unless we make things safer by altering the technology, not removing it.