Today the question that was posed to TV viewers on NBC4 (my channel of choice) during their midday edition was this: Should text messaging while driving be banned in the metro area?
First of all, what kind of question is that? That's akin to asking, "Should reading while driving be banned?" or "Should using a computer while driving be banned?"
They invited viewers to email their responses to the channel. So I couldn't resist, I did, and, amazingly, I kept it rather brief.
Anything that takes a person’s eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, and mind off the task at hand should be banned behind the wheel. Nothing is so important that it cannot wait until you reach your destination or a safe stopping point. Believing otherwise is putting under importance on your personal life at the expense of other drivers.
Of course, the minimum wage worker who received it "fixed" my message to be this:
Anything that takes a person’s eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, and mind off the task at hand should be banned from being behind the wheel.
...which makes no sense...but I'm sure that said minimum wage worker was having trouble understanding something that was not texted from a cell phone or BlackBerry using IM-speak. As a writer, I was offended by having my words regurgitated in such a way, but at least they didn't use my name.
At any rate, I have seen it all on the roads of the DC metro area: people talking heatedly on the phone, writing on notepads on the dash, people eating (with both hands), driving with their knees, reading the paper, reading a novel, typing on the computer, grabbing things out of the back seat. Oy vey! Whatever happened to driving? Whatever happened to paying attention?
Multi-tasking doesn't really work, (see this great article on BNET.com: Just Take Your Time, etc.)particularly when one of the tasks involves maneuvering a half-ton vehicle at high speeds down a freeway peopled with other drivers doing the same multi-tasking in similar vehicles. If we do more than one thing at a time while sitting at our desks, the worst that can happen is that our productivity drops. In a car, you could kill someone. It's like fiddling with the trigger of a loaded gun while it's pointed at an innocent bystander.
Don't even get me started on the fact that people have no idea about stopping distances, the impact of weather on those stopping distances, the reaction time (and decision-making time) needed when some other distracted/rushed/asshole driver cuts you off.
I'm sure some of you have similar beefs with people behind the wheel. Recently this came to the forefront when the same news channel spoke to a woman who joined a support group for help with her technology addiction. She is a journalist who also runs several blogs. She has 5 computers in her house, and is never far from logging on to yet another website. That's not really a big deal in my book, unless it is interfering with your "real" life. The problem was that she admitted (with a coy grin) to often texting behind the wheel, a habit her husband wanted her to drop (Psh-YEAH!). And she was amazingly proud of her behavior. It's like she thought it made her cool, hip, modern!
Maybe I'm just an old fogie, but I still think that if you're focused on driving, you're not likely to accidentally kill me or mine with your Lexus SUV.