Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Pay Attention to Reality: It's the Law!

As I have written before, there seem to be an abundance of both motorists and pedestrians out there hell-bent (what an appropriate turn of phrase) on denying reality while in transit, shielding themselves with technologies like iPods and even (in one case in California) a laptop. Accounting for pedestrians may be the harder of the problems; but, according to Marguerite Reardon's Cellular Blog at CNET, the problem with motorists may provoke changes in some states' motor vehicle codes:

The Wall Street Journal published a story Wednesday about state legislators writing laws to define a new driving offense, DWT or "Driving While Texting." It appears that lawmakers have been spurred into action by the increasing number of accidents that have occurred where electronic and wireless devices were being used by drivers.

I like the DWT epithet, since it implies that an active texting device can be as dangerous in the hands of a driver as an open bottle of booze. Ms. Reardon's sentiments are more libertarian, however, believing that common sense is a more reasonable approach than legislation; so a few words about common sense are probably in order.

There is an old joke about a mule that can do any kind of work on the farm, provided that first you whack him on the head several times with a two-by-four "in order to get his attention." Yes, this is a problem about attention; and anyone who spends a lot of time in a car, particularly in traffic and especially on highway patrol, knows that the average motorist has no more inclination to attention than that mule does! Technology has provided us with so many toys for escaping reality, that we now need to wake up to the fact that sometimes we really do have to attend to that reality. I do not know if legislation will wake up most of us, but I would bet that it will do a better job than relying on common sense! (I see Thomas Hobbes off in the distance quietly nodding in agreement.)

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