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Utah Law Punishes Texters As Much As Drunks In Driving Fatalities 620

The NY Times reports on legislation in Utah which harshly penalizes people who cause fatal car accidents while texting. Instead of merely facing a fine, offenders may now get up to 15 years in jail — the same as drunk drivers. "In effect, a crash caused by such a multitasking motorist is no longer considered an 'accident' like one caused by a driver who, say, runs into another car because he nodded off at the wheel. Instead, such a crash would now be considered inherently reckless. 'It's a willful act,' said Lyle Hillyard, a Republican state senator and a big supporter of the new measure. 'If you choose to drink and drive or if you choose to text and drive, you're assuming the same risk.' The Utah law represents a concrete new response in an evolving debate among legislators around the country about how to reduce the widespread practice of multitasking behind the wheel — a topic to be discussed at a national conference about the dangers of distracted driving that is being organized by the Transportation Department for this fall."
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Utah Law Punishes Texters As Much As Drunks In Driving Fatalities

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  • by Mononoke ( 88668 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:18AM (#29242017) Homepage Journal
    This appears to be the correct legislative response, for once.
  • by blackraven14250 ( 902843 ) * on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:22AM (#29242045)
    Yep. If they decide to look at a screen for a 10-second period while they write a text at 65 mph, and take both hands off the wheel to do so, they get what they deserve.
  • Fine by me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheRon6 ( 929989 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:22AM (#29242051)

    Good! Driving while drunk and driving while texting are both negligent choices. If that choice leads to someone's death, they certainly should be treated equally. If anything driving while texting is worse since your decision making abilities are not hindered by an altered state of mind.

  • Good news. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hattig ( 47930 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:24AM (#29242055) Journal

    The NY Times reports on legislation in Utah which harshly penalizes people who cause fatal car accidents while texting. Instead of merely facing a fine, offenders may now get up to 15 years in jail -- the same as drunk drivers.


    So what's the point of this story?

    Driving is a responsibility, and if you are irresponsible because you are texting - not merely talking handsfree, not talking hand-to-ear, but typing on a fiddly keyboard, you are going to be distracted. Kill someone doing this, and it isn't an accident, what's accidental about taking your mind off the road.

    If you need to text on the road (and also if you need to talk), then pull over somewhere safe and do it there. Or don't answer the phone, and give yourself some "me time" in your own car.

  • by solios ( 53048 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:25AM (#29242067) Homepage

    Why shouldn't malicious and willful ignorance be punished harshly?

    You know better than to get behind the wheel after ten or twelve beers, but some people do it anyway. Driving drunk, driving while texting, driving while playing a gameboy.... frankly, I don't see much of a difference.

    Beyond the fact you can turn off the phone or the gameboy in a snap, whereas sobering up takes time. Given that, I'd figure the penalty would be harsher!

  • Re:Actual risk? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jeffb (2.718) ( 1189693 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:30AM (#29242113)

    Does anyone know if traffic accident rates have gone up in recent years?

    Irrelevant. Accident rates in general depend on too many other things, including safety features (new and old) in cars on the road, how many cars are on the road, and how the roads are designed.

    It's not rocket science to deduce that taking your eyes and mind off the road make you a more dangerous driver. If it's not contributing significantly to the accident rate, that just means that a lot of people, believe it or not, aren't stupid enough to do it.

  • Re:Actual risk? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SuperDre ( 982372 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:33AM (#29242141) Homepage
    that ofcourse isn't necessary.. accident rates can go down, but the reason why an accident happens can change ofcourse.. So for example if there where a lot of accident because of blindspots on a truck in the past it could be that because of better mirrors/camera's on a truck those kind of accidents have dropped, but because of the rise of stupid people who are texting behind the wheel that kind of accident have increased (but maybe not yet as much as the blindspotreason), so in the end you don't really have an increase in accidentrates, but the reason of the accidents have been changed..
  • by solevita ( 967690 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:36AM (#29242165)

    I'm worried about the tone of the submission, however; Soulskill thinks that if you cause a fatal accident you should "merely face a fine". What a fucking moron.
  • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:38AM (#29242187) Homepage Journal
    Seriously, if you want to text while traveling, take a bus/train! I don't know why people in the US are so deadset against public transportation. I can be much more productive while riding the train/bus than I can(and should!) be while driving.
  • by neowolf ( 173735 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:40AM (#29242201)
    I'm with others on this... Distracted driving like this is responsible for a lot of severe and fatal "accidents". As someone else said- it is willful misconduct that should be punished. Driving a car is dangerous, period. If you are driving a car- that should be ALL you are doing is driving. If you aren't focused on what you are doing- you are putting your life, and those of everyone around you, in danger. Why is that so hard for some people to understand? I have a 32-mile long commute to work every day, and EVERY DAY I see people swerving out of their lane and driving erratically while gabbing or texting on a cell phone. I almost get hit at least once a week by one of these winners.
  • by Wonko the Sane ( 25252 ) * on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:43AM (#29242227) Journal
    Let's pass a new law for every single type of driving distraction that comes along instead of writing one law that covers the general case of distracted driving. That way we can make it look like we are responding to every new problem that comes along so we get reelected more easily.
  • Sensible (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:44AM (#29242237)

    It should not matter why you are unable to concentrate on what's going on in front of your car if you're responsible for the distraction. Whether it's drinking or texting, in both cases you made the decision that you want to drink/text instead of concentrate on traffic, you're responsible for the outcome.

  • Re:Actual risk? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mokus000 ( 1491841 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:47AM (#29242255)

    I would not be surprised if the rates have not changed significantly. The problem is not the phones, the problem is the people who do not have enough respect for the 1 million or so Joules of kinetic energy in their control. People have always had things that could have distracted them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:50AM (#29242277)

    "We found a mobile phone in your car, you must have been texting"? Maybe you started texting before driving and paused in the middle because you had to drive. There's no way to prove this.

  • Re:Actual risk? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Uksi ( 68751 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:53AM (#29242303) Homepage

    Traffic fatalities rates have actually been steadily going down in the recent years [] and are lowest they ever were. I think this is mostly due to better cars (for example, stability control reduces accidents by about 30%, we have better tires, fewer old cars on the road that can't make a good evasive maneuver).

  • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:54AM (#29242309)

    In effect, a crash caused by such a multitasking motorist is no longer considered an 'accident' like one caused by a driver who, say, runs into another car because he nodded off at the wheel.

    Except nodding off or passing out at the wheel is not an accident. It has a cause (medical or just simply not getting enough sleep.) It's one thing if you have a random stroke nobody saw coming. It's another if the doctor has said "you're at high risk for _______. You should not be driving."

    If it's a case where you were simply too tired- well, we're not children and it's not rocket science why you "microsleep" or completely fall asleep at the wheel. It happened to me ONCE- woke up in a different lane than I remembered being in. Scared the crap out of me, and I've since learned to get my ass off the road to a rest-stop for a 20-30 minute nap if I feel any of the signs of being too tired, which are pretty damn hard to miss. And to make sure I get enough sleep if I'm doing a bunch of driving!

    I see this all the time with bicyclists who are killed by drivers completely let off the hook. A woman local to Boston was killed in Seattle by an older guy driving his van. On a wide-open highway, in clear weather, in the middle of the day. He was charged with nothing- they said it was due to "inattentiveness." In other words, the fucker wasn't looking where he was going, killed someone, and he gets a free pass? How is that justice? How does that hold people responsible for paying attention to where they pilot a 2-ton hunk of metal at 70 MPH?

    Methinks the thought of spending the rest of your life in jail for killing someone with your car would make people pay a little more attention than getting an occasional speeding ticket for doing 5mph more than everyone else, which is only a randomly collected road tax.

  • by zoomshorts ( 137587 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:01AM (#29242365)

    Driving is a responsibility. You are operating a motor vehicle and there is ALWAYS the potential
    for 'accidents'. Anything you do that interferes with your maximum concentration while operating the vehicle, is something you should not be doing.

    Messing with the radio, adjusting your mirrors(something you should have done before starting the car), putting make-up on, the list can be endless, all interfere with your job. Your job is to operate the vehicle to the best of your ability. If you cannot understand these simple things, you should not be driving a motor vehicle.

    I would welcome such laws nationally. But make them mandatory time, not discretionary time. 15
    years hard labor repairing the roads you did the violation upon. I would remove the word fatal from the legislation. Any such stupidity should not be rewarded. You wreck my car, you pay the price.

    In actuality, more of these types of drivers Cause Others to have accidents. They should not get away.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:06AM (#29242399)

    Whilst I agree with you, creating specific laws (or applying specific examples to an existing law) can actually make things simpler. If you were texting when you had a driving incident, then you're guilty. No arguments in court (with swayable juries) about how distracting texting is, because the law recognises that the argument is answered - it's distracting. It actually tells drivers that they shouldn't do that specific thing, so they might not risk doing it. And it specifically states that texting makes a car incident not an accident, but a felony.

    Keep your phone in your pocket/bag when driving, ignore all and any bleeps it tells you about. Simples.

  • by RogL ( 608926 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:16AM (#29242489)

    So what now? I am sitting at a red stoplight, which I know takes at least a minute to switch. I can't take 10 seconds to text someone that I'll be late? It's perfectly safe and the worst thing is that I'll get honked at if the light turns green before I pay attention. I have made a thoughtful, careful choice. Yet according to the law, I am as bad as a drunk driver.

    Actually, according to the law, if you cause a fatal accident while texting you're as bad as a drunk driver.
    If you're sitting at a red light, it would be difficult to cause a fatal accident; the only possibility I see is if you are hit by someone not expecting a car stopped at a green light, and that's arguably the fault of both drivers.
    So don't text while moving, and you should be fine. Amazing concept I know, but seems to be the intent of the law.

  • by unlametheweak ( 1102159 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:18AM (#29242511)

    Locking up somebody for 15 years for a moment of misjudgment is quite possibly the stupidest thing ever.

    Perhaps, but at least it's fair in the sense that some malevolent behaviors aren't unjustly punished while others are given short shrift. It is somewhat nice to see legislation that targets the end, as opposed to the means (for a change). There is much less hypocrisy in this law. But really, what you call a "moment of misjudgment" is a highly conscious and deliberate act. If I was to get run over by somebody, it really wouldn't matter to my bones whether a person took a sip of beer or was playing video games or texting or talking to somebody on a cellular phone or snorting cocaine. Sometimes stupidity needs to be punished, if only to satisfy some innate desire for justice.

    It would be much better if there were preventative measures in place; like a culture that values intelligence and human life and passes down traditions of self respect and respect for others. Unfortunately people would rather preach than practice their ideals.

  • by Odinlake ( 1057938 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:18AM (#29242513)

    Methinks the thought of spending the rest of your life in jail for killing someone with your car would make people pay a little more attention than getting an occasional speeding ticket for doing 5mph more than everyone else, which is only a randomly collected road tax.

    While I definately like courts to keep drivers of heavy vehicles on a short leash, I have to point out that there are levels of inattentiveness and levels of difficullt situations.. It'd hardly seem reasonable to send someone to prison for life for blinking twice in a situation where he might have avoided an accident had he blinked once. And surely noone would claim they can maintain the same maximum level of attentiveness throughout a two hour or so, ride?? I think it is very difficullt to judge in such cases unless you can prove something concrete sa. intoxication or cellphone usage. I doubt there're many reliable witnesses.

  • by obliv!on ( 1160633 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:18AM (#29242515) Homepage Journal
    If they truly wanted to stop multitasking behind the wheel there would be a lot more support for removing the human from the equation. We aren't that far off from cars that can accurately and safely drive themselves. Why aren't we funding efforts like the DARPA road challenge more? Lets get that wrapped up and out there. I mean I think its good that people who end up doing bad things, because of their poor behavior choices are being penalized for those choices, but if safety is truly the goal we'd recognize that in one way or another multitasking occurs for most drivers at some point and the only way to truly get rid of it and the risks they represent is to minimize the human role in controlling the vehicle.
  • by oDDmON oUT ( 231200 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:19AM (#29242527)

    Mod parent up.

    Go watch it.

  • by Tridus ( 79566 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:20AM (#29242537) Homepage

    Phone records show that you sent a text message 15 seconds before the accident? It's pretty easy to prove, actually.

    Plus all these phones have GPS in them these days. It won't be long before they know you were doing 60 mph when you sent that message.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:26AM (#29242581)
    Yes. "Accident" should be banished from the English language. Whenever something bad occurs, we should always assign blame to someone and punish them as if was an intentional act. That way, people would always stop to think before every action they take: "Is there a possibility that this might result in harm or injury to someone? Might I wind up in jail?" Of course, the number of people applying for air traffic controller jobs or entering medical school might drop...

    My dad used to be a letter carrier with the U.S. Postal Service before he retired. Due to the climate, slipping on icy sidewalks was always a concern. He told me about how they called a meeting one time and the boss announced that "accidents would not be tolerated." I laughed so hard, I wondered if the guy understood the definition of the word accident.
  • by B5_geek ( 638928 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:27AM (#29242597)

    If you get caught DUI then there are "reliable" tests that can determine your blood alcohol content, which is then used determine legal liability.

    How do you prove that a person was 'texting, webbing, reading, etc'?

    A (busted?) phone that may or may not show an active message screen x minutes after an accident for the police to look at?
    Eye-Witness reports? (looking down at radio vs looking down to text)

    These lawmakers are chasing smoke. They want to look like they are trying to make a difference but ANY half competent lawyer could likely get those charges thrown out.

    Laws already exist that cover crap like this:
    Undue care and attention while operating a motor vehicle.
    Unsafe operation of a motor vehicle.
    Dangerous driving.
    Dangerous driving resulting in bodily harm.

    Most crashes caused by idiot drivers can get 1-3 of those charges applied, do we _really_ need to add more?

  • by eiapoce ( 1049910 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:28AM (#29242607)

    I would estimate I've done it about 30 times over the last 6 months of driving.

    That is roughtly 30 times too much.

  • by MetalPhalanx ( 1044938 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:34AM (#29242693)

    Maybe there's a major accident, and they discover that one of the drivers had sent 2 texts within the last 5 minutes. Of course, they would either have to examine your phone or get the co-operation of your cell phone provider for these things. I remember reading a report of a driver here in Canada (either BC or Alberta) where they pinpointed what happened from his cell phone records. He had sent a text less than 30 seconds before the accident occurred.

    Of course, he had splattered himself all over the pavement, so he wasn't around any more to object to them going through those records.

    Having said that, I do agree, it would be hard to enforce it in many cases.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:35AM (#29242703)

    If the text was completed and sent 15 seconds before the accident, I think it's extremely unlikely it caused the accident.

    You're right about the GPS blackbox though. I wish you weren't.

  • by agnosticnixie ( 1481609 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:39AM (#29242739)
    Or, you know, public transit.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:40AM (#29242751)

    And if your every unlucky enough to kill someone I hope you spend 15 years in prison thinking about what a fool that you are.

  • Re:Actual risk? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thetoadwarrior ( 1268702 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:47AM (#29242857) Homepage
    Is driving drunk acceptable then if accident rates go down?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:54AM (#29242925)
    Just give up on life please? You can't possibly try to rationalize how you are allowing yourself to multitask right into a dangerous hole that can not only stand to kill YOU, but stands to kill innocent people who had no hand or choice in, or have the ability to change the outcome of you using the fucking iPhone when you drive around, you stupid pig. I sincerely hope anybody like you who tries to justify how 'texting while driving is not ok' but 'you still do it 30 times in the last 6 months of driving' die the next time you go to do it just because it'd serve your stupidity right. Seriously, piss off.
  • by lysergic.acid ( 845423 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:59AM (#29242965) Homepage

    15-years seems pretty excessive for involuntary manslaughter. Also, I find the phrase "[getting] what they deserve" quite objectionable. It has a connotation of meting out justice. But putting some dumb kid (or dumb adult) in jail for a decade and a half does not bring back the dead, nor does it somehow compensate for the loss of a life. Too often are the concepts of vengeance and justice conflated in our society; desiring one of them is a vice & common human failing, desiring the other is a virtuous ideal.

    The role of the justice system should be to protect society above all else. It makes much more sense IMO to punish texting-related accidents equally whether they result in a fatality or not, as the difference between a car accident that kills someone and one that simply takes out a fire hydrant is often pure luck. If you don't think a 16-year-old driver who causes a non-lethal accident deserves to rot away in jail for almost the same number of years he's been alive, then it doesn't make sense to punish another 16-year-old driver who made the exact same mistake, but was simply not as lucky.

    It sends a stronger message to drivers if they know they face a 2~5 year jail sentence if they get in an accident while texting (and perhaps a 6 month sentence if they're just caught texting behind the wheel) than to punish texting drivers only when they cause a fatality (no one ever thinks they're going to end up killing someone by their negligence).

  • by Al Dimond ( 792444 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:13AM (#29243115) Journal

    Yes, cyclists who ride against the flow of traffic are dumb. A few more: fixie riders that ride in circles in front of the other lanes of traffic while stuck at a red light are dumb. Cyclists that try to sneak across at the start of a red light, and really most of them that run red lights generally, are dumb (I think it's perfectly reasonable for cyclists to treat red lights as 2-way stop signs when there is very little traffic, or when a light is controlled by a sensor that won't pick up the bike, but when doing so, you must observe the same caution you would going through a 2-way stop; I have never seen an accident or close-call result from this behavior). Cyclists that pass on the right near intersections are often dumb, as are cyclists that ride through intersections in the crosswalk at great speed (I have personally witnessed both of these behaviors result in accidents).

    None of this excuses the callousness in the typical public attitude towards cyclists. In truth, if you're paying proper attention to the road you have almost no chance of hitting a cyclist, unless he's doing something dumb like passing on the right near an intersection. But many drivers, even responsible ones that I've talked to, seem to think car-bike collisions are a natural effect of cyclists being on the road. The fact is that at least one of them has to mess up for the accident to happen. If the collision involves running the cyclist down from behind (which is actually pretty rare) it's almost certainly the motorist's fault, and no sympathy should lie with him.

    (source for some statements in this post is the book Effective Cycling)

  • by drsquare ( 530038 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:13AM (#29243123)

    15-years seems pretty excessive for involuntary manslaughter

    Except it's not involuntary.

  • by pem ( 1013437 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:24AM (#29243223)
    We have ceded to the government the right to mete out both justice and vengeance.

    As part of this bargain (which is intended to stop vigilante committees, among other things), the government is required to mete out enough vengeance to keep the populace happy.

    As a disinterested third party observer, it may be easy enough for you to say that a texter (or a drunk, for that matter) should be punished for the action and not the result, but that completely ignores other real-world issues.

    The family of the victim is often out for revenge, and as part of the bargain, it is up to the state to provide it. Maybe not to the same extent as if the perpetrator were simply handed over to the family, but something more than a slap on the wrist.

    So this conflation of vengeance and justice is not accidental, not wrong, and should not be changed, at least until a huge majority of the populace would be just fine with someone who killed their kid getting off with a very light sentence. Otherwise, those victims who feel that their justice was denied will realize that the bargain has been broken, the state has failed them, and will feel justified in taking matters into their own hands.

  • Duh! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by joeyblades ( 785896 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:28AM (#29243261)

    Previously, the Mythbusters (and other scientific studies) has shown that talking on a cell phone while driving is worse than driving while legally drunk. Texting is far more distracting than talking on a cell phone, so this legislation seems more than appropriate.

    What could possibly be so vitally important that it has to be texted right now, yet not so important that you can't pull over to do it?

  • by lysergic.acid ( 845423 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:29AM (#29243275) Homepage

    Isn't the point of saying "merely" to emphasize how lenient current legislation is—rather than to present the new law as overly severe?

    My problem with this is that it could turn an otherwise law-abiding (albeit dumb) teenager into a career criminal. Spending 15-years behind bars (a rather unhealthy environment for an emotionally/mentally-developing teenager) when you should really be in school and learning to be a productive adult can have rather deleterious consequences. I know we call them corrections facilities, and supposedly criminals are all rehabilitated when they get out, but that's usually not the case when you lock up an adolescent for over a decade. You may as well keep him in there for life at that point if you want to protect society from harm.

    There's a good reason manslaughter is differentiated from murder, and that involuntary manslaughter is distinguished from voluntary manslaughter. Treating one the same as the other is not the direction we should be moving in. Additionally, creating overly severe sentences can also have the effect of decreasing the effect the legislation has as a deterrent. It's hard for a normally law-abiding person to picture themselves getting put away for a decade and a half. The punishment is so absurd to a person of that lifestyle that its possibility seems more remote, resulting in them becoming more detached from the possible legal consequences of their actions.

    Add to all that the fact that—aside from gangsters & murderers—no one ever thinks that they're going to end up killing someone, so a piece of legislation that only punishes drivers whose accidents cause fatalities is going to have very little effect on most texters. In contrast, you're much more likely to increase road safety if you pass a law that says any driver who is caught texting behind the wheel will get a 3-month sentence, and any accident caused by texting, fatal or otherwise, comes with a 2-4 year sentence. People can comprehend that kind of punishment. And you don't leave reckless drivers on the streets just because they got lucky this time and didn't happen to kill anyone.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:43AM (#29243427)

    Mod parent up.

    Go watch it.

    Won't work. I watched worse than this in drivers ed years ago, and the dead people I saw weren't actors. I still drove foolishly, because I was a young foolish man. The prospect of prison will influence some, I think. Actual, substantial punishment for reckless driving will influence more.

    A problem with scare videos, and this one is a perfect example, is that they will influence the wrong people- like some girl who will be so afraid to drive after seeing one that she instead will ride with her young, foolish boyfriend, who will drive like a fool and get her killed.

  • by bhartman34 ( 886109 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:43AM (#29243429)

    Have you ever had to look at your dash to change the air conditioner or flip radio stations? God forbid if you drove into a new area and needed to scan for a new station. I know you've never tried to read billboards or MapQuest routes or try to find that one street sign you're looking for.

    Radios now have "Scan" buttons precisely to allow people to pay attention to driving. People looking for street signs are generally a) driving slowly, and b) at least looking at the damn road. And as far as the A/C goes, that should be something you adjust before you set out on your trip.

    And all of that ignores the one central fact: Texting while driving is more cognitively taxing than all of them.

  • Re:Actual risk? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jabuzz ( 182671 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:50AM (#29243491) Homepage

    While the accident and fatality rates might have been falling, what you miss is that without the cell phone they would probably have been falling faster.

    There have been studies done with drivers in simulators that show they are far more likely to have an accident if they are sending text messages on their phone, or taking phone calls for that matter.

  • by FooAtWFU ( 699187 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:53AM (#29243521) Homepage
    I agree with you in most of your cases, but the air conditioning is the probably the most trivial setting in the car, and I've never really needed to look at the dash for more than a fraction of a second to adjust it. This is about as likely to make my driving dangerous as taking my eyes off the road in front of me for a fraction of second to check the speedometer, or the rear-view mirror. (Of course, there are times when driving that I wouldn't do either of those).

    And yes, cell phone manipulation is many times more distracting, and it tends to last for longer. My personal take on it is, "Sure, you can text in your car all you want... as long as it isn't moving. Light turns green, drop the thing in your lap."

  • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:56AM (#29243547)

    I try not to do this while driving because it's really DUMB. I would estimate I've done it about 30 times over the last 6 months of driving. I don't do it during traffic jam situation or where traffic could decide to halt quickly. I always drive with 3-4 second delay (0...1...2...3...4 style counting not 1...2...3...4 style counting). I hold the phone up in above the steering wheel while typing a couple letters at the time, so I can see brakelights during the one-second typings. I try to mitigate risks as best as I can but sometimes I feel the lack of risk at the time makes a good trade off for how important I feel the text is at the time.

    Your text IS NOT important. If you feel your life is that worthless, fine, go offroading in the desert somewhere while texting, or stop doing it and at least respect the lives of the other motorists around you. If the text is that important: here's a novel idea - pull over to the side, preferably a parking lot of some sort, and deal with it, and then get back on the road.

    Maybe I'm biased, I grew up without cell phones (not that they weren't around, just not around me) and feel that being always-on/always-connected/whatever is really overrated. Maybe others are hooked into instant-gratification part of it, but it's not the end of the world for me if I can't reach immediately and have to leave a message. I also refuse to be passenger to drivers who take calls while driving too.

  • by MarkvW ( 1037596 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:58AM (#29243557)

    The drunk's judgment is impaired when the drunk gets behind the wheel. The texter makes an intentional, volitional, free decision to put other people at risk by texting while driving.

    Stupid bastards forget that their cars are killing machines unless properly handled.

  • by arb phd slp ( 1144717 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @12:08PM (#29243659) Homepage Journal

    I've done it once in my entire life and it scared the living shit out of me. Never again.

  • by MooUK ( 905450 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @12:13PM (#29243709)

    Large fines, and driving bans. Prison terms should be reserved for murderers, rapists, and others who should be separated entirely from society for society's benefit. Forced community service, fines, and removal of privileges are better options for lesser crimes.

    I'm also of the opinion that as far as practical, prisons should be fairly unpleasant (NOT in the prison rape way, that should be stamped out - I mean things like poor quality food, albeit nutritious enough to sustain life) and prisoners should perform useful tasks, such as hard labour.

  • by pem ( 1013437 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @12:15PM (#29243721)
    that justice had its roots in revenge. See, for example the wikipedia article on punishment [].

    I don't think that I said anything which would indicate that I don't think that vigilantism isn't a crime or should be appeased, but one of the reasons that we have the luxury of thinking this way is that, in fact, our government is supposed to (and, often enough, does) punish people so we don't have to do it ourselves. This "disinterested third party" is supposed to mete out justice proportional to the crime in a less personal way than the victim might, but don't for a minute think that society would stand for the punishment being solely related to the action and completely disconnected from the outcome. Drunken driving is a punishable offense, but the punishment for killing somebody while driving drunk is always worse than if you didn't kill somebody. That is how it is and how it needs to be, at least until we evolve, and that is how it needs to be for texting as well.

  • by MooUK ( 905450 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @12:23PM (#29243847)

    Today, whilst driving to an appointment to view a flat, just after I'd left home, I received a phone call. Naturally, I didn't answer it. I never do.

    Fifteen minutes later, after parking at my destination, I listened to my voicemail and discovered it had been the letting agent calling to cancel the appointment. Had I answered the phone, I'd have saved half an hour of my time (round trip) along with applicable fuel.

    So, do I answer next time, despite driving?

    Hell no. I'll park at the next appropriate opportunity if I feel it's important - otherwise, they can wait.

  • Re:Actual risk? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MooUK ( 905450 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @12:28PM (#29243885)

    When driving, your attention should be focused on driving. There is no exception and no excuse.

    This should not be a difficult concept.

  • by LaskoVortex ( 1153471 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @12:45PM (#29244047)

    prisoners should perform useful tasks, such as hard labour.

    It is not ethical to attempt to harvest value from prisoners. The labor should be hard but not useful. The labor prisoners provide should not even be useful enough to pay for their own incarceration. If the prison population is large enough to be potentially taxing to society, then this prison population statistical in nature and is very much a consequence of the social structure. A social and legal structure that rewards a statistically large population of prisoners by harvesting value from them is tantamount to a slavery system.

  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @01:27PM (#29244483) Homepage Journal

    There is no TRY. Just pull over if it's that important. If not, wait till you get home.

    If the traffic is that light, it shouldn't be all that hard to pull over, now should it?

  • by fantomas ( 94850 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @01:48PM (#29244677)

    "How do you prove that a person was 'texting, webbing, reading, etc'?"

    I'm not sure how it works in the USA but here in the UK phone providers hold logs of calls - I guess you must have the same or how else does the phone provider bill you for your phone calls at the end of the month? So if an accident happens and there's any suspicion that use of a phone was involved, the police can ask for the phone records. They check the logs.

  • I love you, Utah law-making people things. Have my babies. Please. A law like this should have been in my state so long ago that it's disturbing. I mean it. Maybe we'll copy you down here in America's dangly-bits.

    A slap on the wrist for holding any sort of a conversation on the phone when you should be DRIVING has always hacked me off. Should be a baby seal club on the wrist.

    I have a cellphone. I strictly refuse to hold a conversation while driving. If I have a family member in a vehicle with me when I'm driving, I hand them the phone and ask them if they recognize the caller (since it's usually family calling). If they do, I tell them to have the conversation. Otherwise, if it's just me, they go to voicemail or send a text.
    If they send a text, I check it at the next place I stop at, like a store. If they leave voicemail, it's the same thing: Next time I make a substantial, vehicle-leaving stop, I'll check it.

    My family hates it, but I tell them the same thing every time: "My attention is best served in avoiding all the other jackasses driving with BlackBerrys coming out of their ears and iPhones in their asses."

  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @02:48PM (#29245289) Journal


    Why don't you just pullover? (duh.) That's what I do when I receive a phonecall. I look at the number, and if it's nobody important I ignore it, but if it is my home than I answer and say "Hello. Please wait while I stop my car." Then I pull off the road (preferably at a ramp) and take the call. Simple.

    This bullshit about buying tactile phones or Crakberries or whatever and saying, "It's safer than an iPhone," is completely and utterly acceptable." And yes I do call the police when I spot people texting or shaving their face or curling their hair. Yes that makes me an asshole, but at least I'm a LIVE asshole instead of a dead one.


    One more thing. If you kill somebody close to me like my wife of daughter, because you're texting, you consider your life forfeit. I can forgive drunk driving because drinking makes the brain not work properly - but there's NO excuse for a sane, rational being to be texting while driving. Use the God gave you or else I will splatter it across your living room wall.

    Do I sound angry?

    Damn straight.

    I. Can. Not. Believe what I've been reading from supposedly *intelligent* people justifying why it's okay to text while driving. "That's the exact reason I chose a blackberry over the iPhone; tactile buttons." You self-centered egotistical bastards. If I see you I *will* call the police and help them track you down and arrest you. You don't deserve the privilege of having a drivers' license.

  • by sadler121 ( 735320 ) <> on Saturday August 29, 2009 @02:57PM (#29245381) Homepage

    It doesn't matter how many times he does it, if he can avoid getting into an "accident" then he should be allowed to do it. Once he gets into an "accident", then that is when laws like Utah's are good. 15 year prison term for causing someone's death is probably not enough. They should have restricted driving privileges after they get out, for at least the next 10 years.

  • by Marsell ( 16980 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @02:59PM (#29245409) Homepage

    And I do understand why it's forbidden.

    But you're special and won't screw up, right?

    It's amazing the rationalizations that people go through. Stop coming up with excuses and pay attention to the road.

    You're not special, and you're threatening people's lives with your selfish stupidity.

  • by 1u3hr ( 530656 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @03:14PM (#29245537)
    The heroin user kills the person who surprised him when he entered his house looking for something to steal.

    Taking heroin doesn't cause murder; its high price does.

    Seriously, if you don't think heroin addiction affects others, you are as deluded than the texter.

    I've had close friends who were addicts. Taking it just made them happy and sleepy. But they weren't driving, and they didn't murder anyone that I know of. They were always "borrowing" money, of course. There are legal addictions that have much worse effects.

    Heroin users' problems are mostly due to having to pay a very high price and deal with criminals to get it.

  • by Shados ( 741919 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @03:50PM (#29245883)

    If I shoot a gun in the general direction of a group of people, being careful to avoid hitting any of them (ignoring the small risk of someone running in the gun's path), and don't hit anybody, is it ok?

  • by sulfur ( 1008327 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @04:23PM (#29246171)

    It doesn't matter how many times he does it, if he can avoid getting into an "accident" then he should be allowed to do it.

    I wonder if the same logic should be applied to drunk driving (with relatively low BAC). I am sure that some people after having a couple of beers drive extra carefully, not exceed the speed limit even by 1 mph, etc to avoid being caught. Arguably under these conditions they are driving safer than while they are sober.

  • by jadavis ( 473492 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @08:41PM (#29248009)

    A slow drunk driver is not safer than a sober fast driver.

    That's a question of fact, and requires empirical evidence.

    There are all kinds of abilities, situations, conditions, and decisions that affect the safety of driving. It's quite likely that there are some drivers that can drive more safely at 0.08 BAC than another driver with BAC 0.00 that might be driving 5 mph over the speed limit, in the rain, distracted, and making aggressive maneuvers.

    The reasons that alcohol impairment is generally punished more severely and strictly are (not an exhaustive list):
    1. Alcohol consumption is perceived as more of a choice than being a generally bad driver (perhaps due to lack of practice or ability), or driving in the rain.
    2. Some people just don't like alcohol, period.
    3. Few people realize that 0.08 is actually quite a low BAC, and assume that 0.08 is "drunk" because politicians and prohibitionists say it is. 0.08 BAC is not anywhere close to drunk, even for casual social drinkers. I think if more people had a personal breathalyzer the limits would be higher, or graduated upward from a fairly minor offense.
    4. BAC can be measured more objectively than general driving skill, reaction time, distraction level while driving, current level of impairment, or the general safety of road conditions (e.g. pouring rain and low visibility versus a few drops falling).
    5. Alcohol can affect judgment, and the driver might be more likely to do other unsafe things, like speed.

    Absent from this list is any serious difference in the safety between consuming a moderate amount of alcohol and other safety-reducing factors.

    I'm not suggesting that it should be legal to drive drunk, but I do think the punishments should be graduated from a minor offense (about like a speeding ticket), and compounded if you're doing other unsafe things (like speeding). There's a big difference between someone who has a few pints and drives home slowly and as safely as they can, after the other traffic has died down; and someone who downs a bottle and goes the wrong way on the freeway at 100mph. They are not even in the same league, but the legal system treats them almost identically.

    Right now I think it's just a bad situation because people don't even know what 0.08 is until they end up in jail. Lots of people have a few drinks after work or with dinner and then drive home, and some significant fraction of those people are over 0.08 and don't even know it.

  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:53PM (#29248393) Journal

    >>>You are angry at people who text but still you go through the trouble of checking who is calling

    Yeah because a quarter-second glance to see if it's my wife calling (important), or just some headhunter (ignore), is clearly equivalent to spending several minutes composing a love letter to your girlfriend via TXT while driving.

    (rolls eyes)

    Just fuck off. On second thought, no, I hope you text yourself to death. Like the busdriver who rear-ended a car because he was too busy composing to notice the traffic jam a mile ahead of him. Except in your case you shouldn't hit anybody else. Instead you should go drive into a tree and help decrease the surplus population, hopefully before you have a chance to spread your stupid, inconsiderate, self-centered genes to the next generation. "That's the exact reason I chose a blackberry over the iPhone; tactile buttons." Inconsiderate bastard who endangers everybody's else's lives.

  • by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @06:16PM (#29254925)

    The second time, I remembered how nervous I was the first time, and typed the message at traffic lights. Thankfully, the road I spend most of my driving time on has poorly (for traffic flow) timed lights, which allow me to type a sentence, drive for 30sec, type another sentence, drive another 30sec... I can literally hold a conversation through text without having to type while moving or take my eyes off the road.

    Yes, but that's still inconvenient. Maybe we could put a voice recognition software on the phone? That way, you could simply talk and have the phone turn your speech into a text message and send it to whoever you're having the conversation with. His return messages could be similarly be read aloud by a voice synthesizer. Perhaps you could even have it mimic his voice? And if we could get network latency down, and the other guy also used this software, it would almost be like the two of you were talking to each other.

    Real-time voice conversation over the phone network - that's the kind of innovation we need to get the economy up again. Patent office, here I come!

"Hey Ivan, check your six." -- Sidewinder missile jacket patch, showing a Sidewinder driving up the tail of a Russian Su-27