President Obama signed an executive order Wednesday night banning federal employees from texting while operating government vehicles or driving their own vehicles on government business. State and local governments are encouraged to pass similar laws against “distracted driving”.
We’ve all seen it. People pecking away on their cell phones while sitting at traffic lights or worse, while hurtling down the highway at full speed. And as long as they’re looking at their cell phones, they’re not watching the road.
A Los Angeles Times article shares a startling statistic: Distracted driving delays reaction time as much as a blood alcohol content of 0.08%, according to research by the University of Utah.
In addition, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 15% of driver deaths in the U.S. last year were a result of distracted driving. While it’s uncertain how many of these incidents were related to texting while driving, many experts consider it a growing problem - including Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
"To put it plainly, distracted driving is a menace to society,” says LaHood.
Now the hard part. While most of would agree that distracted driving is bad and that any efforts to curb it are good, how will the new ban be enforced? Will federal employers develop an official HR policy on the ban and if so, how will they apply it consistently to all employees? And regarding enforcement, how will cops identify someone texting while driving (especially if the person holds the phone below the window line)? Should cops be allowed to peruse a person’s cell phone to see if it was being used at the time of a traffic violation or accident? And what sort of privacy issues could all this raise?
Even if the ban IS just semantics, perhaps it will act as a deterrent. And perhaps it will lead to more people sharing LaHood’s point of view:
"Driving while distracted should just feel wrong - just as driving without a seat belt, or driving while intoxicated, seems wrong to most Americans."