Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Opion Article: Distracted driving laws, Is it prevention or overkill?

The U.S. government is contemplating passing a law banning the use of portable electronics in vehicles as reported by msnbc.com.  The law is in response to the statistics posted by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).  The statistics state 3,092 people died last year due to distracted driving.

The law will effectively ban the use of cell phones, iPods, and Blue Tooth.  The exceptions are GPS navigation units, and cell phone usage during an emergency. 

This brings to the mind a few questions which lawmakers will have to weigh before approving the law.  How much distraction is too much distraction?  Some people cannot even have a conversation with a passenger without becoming distracted i.e. missing their exit, or drifting out of their lane.  Is distraction able to be measured in a quantifiable amount? Does this mean iPods can't be connected at all to your radio? 

Can the technology for our fast paced lives coexist with driving, or should they be kept separate?  Is there a such thing as too much technology?  The lines are becoming blurry as the number of vehicles offering Blue Tooth connectivity and iPod compatibility has increased, and some high end luxury cars offer Internet capabilities too.

Automakers seem to be enablers to distracted driving to some extent.  Take a look at the lane departure feature, which will alert a driver if he/she crosses over into the next lane.  People may argue it is to alert a tired driver, but common sense would dictate people not drive if they are fatigued to the point where driving becomes a hazard to other drivers. Are automakers putting in things customers are requesting, or they are just adding content for the sake of glitz and glamor? 

While many will agree distracted driving is hazardous, will the intervention of the government help alleviate the problem, or is it just a money making scheme?  Does this impede on personal freedom at all?  Will this pave the way to ban eating in a vehicle, or drinking coffee while driving to work?  It is scary if the law is vaguely written that it will be hard to enforce fairly.  Assuming iPods can still be connected to the radio, does an iPod user automatically qualify for a penalty if he/she simply chooses to skip to the next song and the iPod lights up? (very visible during the evening)  What if the vehicle is stopped at a light, can a user use the iPod at all? 

Ultimately however, we know responsibility comes down to the driver.  The individual behind the wheel needs to keep in mind driving is a privilege, and not a Constitutional right.  Many people treat driving lightly with little disregard for others such as failure to signal, running lights, tailgating, etc.  Keeping distractions to a minimum is imperative as it requires focus and more effort to drive safely than to drive lackadaisically.  The major debate is whether this law is a step in the right direction or not about the issue. 

What are your thoughts on the issue?  Are you for or against the law passing?  Do you think hands free technology is a good enough solution to cell phone usage in a vehicle?  Is this law a necessity or nanny overkill?  Should there be some changes for the final version?  Happy motoring and keep on driving! 

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