How do we enforce the MD texting while driving ban?

So there’s a new ban on texting while driving in Maryland as of October 1st of this year. And it opens a lot of questions. How is the law to be enforced? What about GPS or iPods or talking on the phone? Aren’t these similar distractions? What if I’m using my smart phone to update my calendar while I’m driving. Is that excused? (I don’t do that, people.)

When the Maryland General Assembly passed Senate Bill 98/House Bill 72, I’m not sure that they considered the enforcement of this new law. In her article, Talea Miller says, “[Lt. Matt] Langer said for the texting ban, the ‘ultimate goal is voluntary compliance,’ as the laws help educate the public on the risks of distracted driving.”

I hope that this law does teach the public about the risks of distracted driving. If they don’t, there’s still the horrific video about the dangers of texting while driving that was done with the help of police in Gwent, England. And as far as “voluntary compliance,” I can only say that we’ll see (and wishful thinking).

This law traces back to the roles of individual responsibility. If every person already cared about their individual behavior and reflected on it, no one would send text messages while driving. And they wouldn’t play with their radios for 20 seconds, drive drunk, drive wrecklessly, drive while talking on the phone, drive exhausted, etc. The list is endless. And I’m not sure that this law is taking any step toward correcting the problem. Especially when enforcement is based on “voluntary compliance.”

After the article New Texting Law Effective Oct. 1, one user, Dako, posted this: “Why has it become so important to communicate via a cell phone (usually about nothing important!) while performing one of the most dangerous activities (driving) known to man? Use your head for something other than a ‘hat rack’ people! Your use of a modern CONVENIENCE has a direct impact on: traffic delays (people do drive slower while using a phone); frequency and severity of accidents; and the cost of insurance to ALL of us. If you insist on being so STUPID as to use your phone, please pull over or at least wait until you are on an open road (not in traffic)…and above all keep it brief! Phone Responsibly…”

And I don’t think I could say it better myself. What do you think about this new law?

Photo from Kellie Roring’s blog.

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2 Comments

  1. First I will reply to the quote by Dako that you posted. The answer is plain and simple: Because if you’re in your car every day going the same route, driving becomes a monotonous activity and humans just can’t sustain continuous attention to monotonous activities for any lengthy period of time, so instead they start doing other things, whether that be texting, putting on make-up, shaving or whatever is currently within reach.

    This brings me to the questions in your first paragraph. Most of the things you mentioned should also be illegal, as, clearly, the cognitive & perceptual requirements are such that you can not adequately focus on driving. As a matter of fact, some European countries have (and have had for some time) laws outright banning any distracting activities while driving. Of course the definition of what exactly is distracting can be fuzzy, but for a lot things it is pretty clear. I would define it as anything that requires you to take your eyes of off the road or that removes the primary focus of your attention from driving. Taking a sip from a cup is not considered distracting while looking in the mirror to put on make-up (or shave) clearly is.

    As mentioned above the problem with driving is that for most people their daily commute or errand run is a monotonous task, and very small distractions that require just a tiny bit of attention (such as taking a sip from a coffee cup) can actually help us stay focused on driving where we would otherwise start to daydream (which can be just as bad as texting). I think the overarching problem is that most people don’t realize how much attention they actually need to devote to driving to be a safe driver.

  2. STOP TEXTING WHILE DRIVING.

    If you can’t completely quit, then just don’t do it on the highway or curvy roads. You’re not only endangering your life, but the lives of other people on the road.

    Didn’t you see “7 pounds” ? It’s a great law.


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