On July 1, 2010, Michigan’s law banning texting while driving went into effect. And I sincerely believe that all distractions on the road can lead to catastrophic events for the driver in question, as well as anything or anyone that is in the zone of danger. However, I do find this particular law to be quite curious. Did they enact it because the legislature finds texting or emailing to be the most perilous task one can risk while driving? Was it just to raise awareness of just how unsafe texting and/or emailing can be? Or was it to jump on the bandwagon of the numerous other states that have passed similar laws? I pose these questions for several reasons.
The most obvious dilemma, and the most commonly discussed, is the concept of how the state plans to school police officers on discerning the difference between texting and dialing – because as we all know, talking on the phone, with or without an earpiece, is still legal in Michigan. Personally, I can’t imagine how anyone without superhero laser-vision would ever be able to truly distinguish between the two. Technically, the law affords police officers the right to detain a driver for texting – even when there has been no other moving violation. But what are they going to do? Pull over anyone who is looking down and appears to be moving their arms? I would imagine anyone who knows it is illegal would choose to keep the phone in their lap in the event they send a text. And let’s say an officer did pull someone over for exactly that – looking down and moving arms. They would first have to ask to see the cell phone. Now, I personally, would not give my cell phone to an officer as the information on it is none of their business. At that point, they could potentially obtain a search warrant. If any officer went through all that trouble without the presence of another moving violation or personal vendetta, I would be shocked. And either way, it takes about 2 seconds to erase a text for good – much longer than the time it would take to get that warrant. After that, the only other way to obtain proof of a violation would be getting a warrant for the phone bill and subsequently searching it for a sent text at the exact moment the car was pulled over. And now the process has become plain ridiculous – especially without a violation of any other kind.
Another major issue is that aside from dialing and talking, there are countless other activities you can still do while driving – to the point that texting seems quite minor. For instance, you can still eat a sandwich, drink a soda, spill a soda and clean it up, apply a full face of make-up, check your Facebook page, play video games, type addresses into your navigation system, polish your nails, read and jot down information from a billboard, and listen to your iPod with or without headphones. With this in mind, a ban on texting alone sounds nonsensical. Perhaps tighter rules on careless driving in general would have been more practical. A sounder solution may have been following in the footsteps of the city of Troy where the “no distractions law” within its city limits makes all of the aforementioned activities illegal.
Personally, I agree with Troy. Although we all do it, none of us should consciously partake in any activity while driving unless there is a life-threatening emergency. The possibility of harming or killing yourself or others is hardly worth any of it. But most people aren’t thinking about these risks in the heat of the moment. We all think driving is mindless, so why not eat a quick burger while racing to an appointment? If Michigan truly wants to diminish the amount of accidents caused by careless driving, it will need to re-evaluate all of the root causes as opposed to solely focusing on the near impossible task of fining a texting driver. Hopefully, this will happen sooner rather than later.