|By Nick DeLorenzo, The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
One of these things just doesn't belong with the others.
Driving isn't a nice way to round off any of the other aforementioned activities.
So says the federal government, some state governments and a slew of municipalities.
You can argue all you want about how much time gets wasted in the car, or that it doesn't distract you, personally, but making it illegal to manipulate a mobile device while driving (isn't a car technically a mobile device?) is all the rage these days.
Be honest. How many people actually pull over to make a phone call? How many of you refuse to make or take calls while driving?
How many ever text, tweet, talk or e-mail while driving? I'd bet more than 50 percent.
It's pretty tough to argue with all of the studies, which generally indicate there's a significant risk attached to doing anything other than driving while you're behind the wheel.
Even if you're using the phone hands-free, you're still increasing the danger to yourself and others.
New cars, even at entry level, are increasingly equipped with navigation systems, apps, bells and whistles so numerous that they would put a carillon to shame.
Some cars have phone systems built right in.
Granted, they all warn you not to operate these systems while the vehicle is in motion, but they might as well put "nudge, nudge, wink wink, we're just covering ourselves if you crash" in the disclaimer as well.
Do federal, state, or local governments intend to ban the use of these systems as well?
Because if they don't, the slippery slope principle will apply. Eventually, more cars will feature things like "Talk to Tweet," or be able to read incoming messages as the person is driving.
And if they try, they'll have an uproar on their hands.
Might I propose a simple solution?
Allow the use of hands-free devices built into the vehicle.
Many new cars have systems that can detect driving conditions -- traffic around the car, speed, location and more. If the vehicle is exceeding a certain speed, road conditions are unsafe, there is heavy traffic, the area has a high rate of accidents or driving becomes erratic, begin disabling features, starting with hands-free calling.
Make this function optional, allow it to be disabled, and work with insurance companies to ensure penalties if an accident takes place and the system is disabled.
If that seems heavy handed, let me ask you this:
How would you reply if someone asked you what you thought of letting anyone above age 16 maintain and operate a 1-to-2-ton piece of heavy equipment constructed from steel, aluminum and carbon fiber that is capable of traveling in excess of 100 mph and is fueled by highly explosive liquids?
Still, the impulse to ban or penalize doesn't work well for technology.
People will just use it anyway.
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