Saturday, November 16, 2013

Distracted Driving... flavour of the month

So before you all go ape on me for this post, try to get your head around this little nugget,

"In 1930, laws were proposed in Massachusetts and St. Louis to ban radios while driving," writes DeMain. He goes on to say a 1934 Auto Club of New York poll said 56% thought car radios were a "dangerous distraction."

The biggest issue with "distracted driving" is that is purely suggestive. The statistics trotted out are speculative at best, and a guess at worst. Who has been in an "accident" where both vehicles operators were completely "in tune" with the situation that preceded the collision? Could one safely suggest that a large portion of driving incidents are a result of being distracted in some way, shape, or form? Today our police Chief has suggested that he'd be in favour of taking away vehicles and suspending the driving privilege of people caught being "distracted".

Great. Now a subjective call by one person I cant argue against because my word isn't equal in weight to theirs, can lead to me losing my ride, and my ability to work. Remember the old folks who got a cell phone ticket that was defended vehemently by our illustrious Police Force and then dropped by the Crown?

Sounds perfect Devon... next idea?

I absolutely used to LOVE the single officer cruiser cars where the driver had his lap top open, punching in license plate numbers (which I call fishing) and reading the results while driving along. Police are still allowed to use their cell phones in the traditional fashion while on duty. Are they talking to their spouse? Kids? Mom? Can't really say, but you'd be stupid if you believed that it doesn't happen. With the amount of moonlighting that goes on, you'd be safe to assume that the side jobs scheduled for their day off is being planned. Personal phone? Police issued cell phone? I dunno... does it matter? We're told that it's about how our brains are wired... that we're not capable of processing the information properly... except Police... they are wired differently.

The idea of putting teens in go carts and asking them to text is another great "study" trotted out for those who have never carted to say, "See... it must be true!" A go cart is set up completely differently than a car, the track is purposefully more difficult to negotiate than a road, and they are only similar in the same sort of way that a child's pedal car and a go cart are "the same". Can you steer a go-cart with your thigh? Didn't think so...

I don't really have an issue with the whole notion of texting being a distraction, yet for years I have seen idiots with their lap dogs driving...with their dog steering, or at least hanging on the wheel. Screaming kids in the back? Want to tell me how THAT'S not distracting?

25 road deaths are due to "distracted driving". What does that mean? Were they distracted by virtue of being sleep deprived? Did they see a bear, and were too busy gawking at it to not realize they were in the oncoming traffics lane? "Rubber necking" at an accident scene has been more than one cause of an accident... is that also a "distracted driving" statistic?

When I was young, my old man bought himself (well the family I guess) a brand spanking new car. He got it on a Thursday, and we all piled in on Good Friday to head off tho church. Dad was trying to figure out the new radio, which was one of those new fangled digital things (with an 8 track) and stopped at a STOP sign. He drove out onto the road perpendicular to our direction of travel and "BAM", the new car was heading to the body shop. (True story)

You're thinking, "Nice story, but what's the point?"

You don't need a cell phone to be distracted, you can have a passenger you are arguing with next to you, frustrating you to the point of distraction (insert ex spouses name as required), or perhaps an unruly set of three kids, with the oldest one poking the youngest and Mom yelling at them, or any other number of distractions, (Squirrel!)

MPI continues to "drive" issues to suit themselves, and get their Sixty Second driver infomercials to convince us all about what a huge problem this is, yet there are no concrete numbers provided to support their newest money making "crackdown". At the reported 50 tickets a day, the fine of $200 gets the Provincial coffers $10,000 from Winnipeg alone. The Sun reports that MPI is providing $140,000 province wide, with $80,000 to Winnipeg to "aid with" enforcement.

Hey. News flash. In 8 days the money is paid back. Everything over that is gravy, and don't go telling me about how it's different pockets because in this province the pockets are all in the same suit, even if some are pant, jacket, or a vest pocket.

If MPI REALLY wants to make a difference they should find some other ways. Suggestions? Pay me to get my PAL, my Hunters Safety, and my deer hunting license. 80% of wild life collisions are deer related.

Vehicle collisions with deer are both dangerous and costly. On average, there are about 6,800 vehicle-deer collisions each year in Manitoba, resulting in about 300 injuries to occupants in the vehicles. The financial cost of all of this is approximately $33 million. (From MPI website)

Not really as much of a cash grab though is it? Imagine someone calculating what an increase in hunters BRINGS to the economy as opposed to the sucking sound Government imposed fines are to it.

If we stopped providing a drivers license to almost every one, regardless of their skill level, we might not have to worry about a little distraction.


  1. So.. is this a pro-Jabber/Texting-while-driving article? Maybe I'll quit fighting those who insist on multi-tasking while driving and JOIN them.. maybe I'll be doing it near their kids when they're on their bicycles next to my large vehicle. Yeah.. because driving is so mundane, and god forbid we have some time to think about things.. let's break out the cell phones for those horrible driving times!

  2. What part of this post endorsed texting, using a cell phone, or putting on make up while driving? Questioning the statistics, questioning the "epidemic" nature we are told this is and endorsing that behaviour is not the same... unless you want it to be.

  3. There are a million ways to drive 'distracted' and you mentioned a few of them. Another example is checking out the attractive woman ( or man) walking on the sidewalk...not that I'd ever do that!
    I see your point of providing adequate evidence that there is a relationship between driving distracted and crashes. As well as the difficulty of pinpointing what distracted actually means. On the other hand, the issue of statistics and proof is dwarfed by the consequences of driving distracted and/or poorly ( could be 2 different things). Everything from minor injuries and increased Autopac spending to serious injuries and death. Worst of all our driving directly affects those who are in the car with us as well as other vehicles and pedestrians.
    You seem to imply that all distractions are equal. I see a big difference in typing a message on a cell phone or driving one handed for 5 minutes while talking vs pressing a button to change the radio station, or telling my kids to "pipe down! ". I expect a ticket for driving 20 clicks over the speed limit, I don't expect it for going 1 click over the limit. Not all actions are the same.
    Most of us who drive do get distracted at some point. We almost always get away with it because you have to be rather unlucky to get into a crash. However, given the consequences, the more we can do to lessen the odds of a crash ( or accident if you prefer) the better. We can't do much about the deer that jumps in front of a car or a meteorite that crashes through someone's windshield but we can do something about other preventable activities.

    Oh and your point about the older folks who were unjustly accused , well justice did prevail. And I wonder how many people get caught driving with a cell phone and lie about not doing it it...