Monday, June 27, 2011

Putting the cart before the horse.

There are lots of things that could cause a person to drive like an idiot.

Maybe they're drunk. Or texting. Or putting on makeup. Or eating. Or tired. Or on prescription (or over-the-counter) medication. Or they're just an uncoordinated dumbass who has no business behind the wheel in the first place.

Regardless, the problem is driving like an idiot, not "Driving While ________."

Meanwhile, "Driving While ________" laws keep hacking away at branches and ignoring the root, while simultaneously ignoring the one law that will never be repealed, which is the Law of Unintended Consequences, as Ben Swenson so deftly points out (regarding Indiana's shiny new "Driving-While-Texting" law):
I think this law is going to have the effect of being more distracting for drivers. Let's face it, some folks are going to break this law. Rather than holding their phone up by the steering wheel where they can easily glance at it as they drive, they're going to hold it down by their crotch and try to hide it. That means they're going to be even less likely to see something happening ahead of or around them, and be even more likely to drive unsafely. I'd like the first person injured by a distracted driver to sue the state legislature for passing this law.
You know, if there's no harm, then there should be no foul.


og said...

"Or they're just an uncoordinated dumbass who has no business behind the wheel in the first place."

If we could get rid of THOSE, you'd probably have indianapolis mostly to yourself.

TimP said...

Yeah, it makes more sense to have something like "reckless operation of an automobile" (which I think actually exists here in Australia, but I don't think it's generally enforced). I don't think they go for such laws though because they're vulnerable to different interpretations of what is "reckless", so you get a bunch of laws defining things that are "reckless", and if there is not specific law against it it's seen as perfectly OK no matter how stupid it is.

Just My 2¢ said...

I think the infraction should read "FrackingAround while driving".

I understand DWI-it makes sense to me that somebody who was intoxicated decided to drive during his impairment.

What I don't understand is all of the other "Driving while _______"
What? Somebody was texting and decided to go for a drive in the middle of his conversation?

Another solution is "Idiot in possession of a motor vehicle."

Sigivald said...

That was much my thought with our new local "handsfree device only!" laws.

So, instead of just picking up the phone and using one hand to hold it to my head if I get a call, I have to scramble for a little headset, turn it on, and stick it in my ear - hopefully before it goes to voicemail?

Yeah, that's gonna be a lot less distracting, isn't it?

(Maybe the idjit lawmakers think everyone is one of them, and needs to be On The Phone All The Time, and thus will always have a damned headset on?

Yeah, well, they're wrong.)

Tam said...

If they don't cross the centerline, then how do you know they were texting/drunk/eating/putting-on-makeup?

And if they DO cross the centerline, what's the difference?

The foul is crossing the centerline, not eating a cheeseburger while applying mascara and being drunk while texting...

Crucis said...

Back when I still commuted to and from work I come upon a woman who read a book while driving. She always had a paper-back propped up on the steering week. Her car had no dings or scrapes that I could see. I met her daily for months and then she disappeared.

Maybe she meet an interruption while turning a page? I don't know. OTOH, the worse was a woman who nearly side-swiped me while she was applying her makeup while doing 55mph in a 45mph zone.

Stretch said...

DWS: Driving While Stupid.
Nah, we'd have to lock up the whole motoring public.

Anonymous said...

Besides being drunk, congenital lack of situational awareness is our biggest road hazard and pretty much impossible to eliminate, except in an individual Darwinian fashion.

Old NFO said...

Concur, BUT where there IS harm, there should be a SERIOUS foul... (jail time at the minimum)

Anonymous said...

"where there IS harm, there should be a SERIOUS foul... (jail time at the minimum)"

traditionally, negligence is a tort not a criminal act. Criminalizing negligence has become a slippery slope in our lawyer dominated government. Forget to tighten a bolt on the oil pipeline blind flange...go to jail. I'm not sure we should be OK with this.

Anonymous said...

Tam's point, that attempting to legislate Driving While ___________ is like trying to nail jello to a wall in a world with as many manifestations of Stupid as there are Stupid people in it, is well taken.

So we could just turn that around, to ___________While Stupid and get right to that "root" that she mentioned, and pass a blanket law against that...and of course Legislating While Stupid would be at the top of the list.

They say you can't fix Stupid, but that would sure go a long way toward preventing Stupid from being infilicted on the rest of us. And all the other stupid stuff (yeah, like texting while driving...fucking morons), we'll just have to handle on a case-by-case hit me, I kill you.


Tam said...


"Tam's point, that attempting to legislate Driving While ___________ is like trying to nail jello to a wall..."

The fuck it is.

If somebody crosses the centerline, then you cite them for crossing the centerline, and who (other than Carrie Nation and you) gives a good goddam WHY they crossed the centerline?

Because they were texting? Citation. Because they were drunk? Citation. Because they were a q-tip snowbird in FL pissing off AT? Ticket. The actionable offense it the SAME, Mr. Don't-Let-The-Government-Tell-Me-What-Time-To-Set-My-Clocks-To Al Terego.

Standard Mischief said...

without looking at the law, let me take a wild-ass guess...

The law exempts the police and firefighters even if they're texting while merging onto a busy expressway during rush hour traffic.

The law does not exempt mere mortals when they glance at their todo list on their PDA while stopped at a red light.

How did I do?

Anonymous said...

"...and a good goddam WHY they..."

That would be the legislators that I mentioned who slash at twigs while the root runs ever deeper, which I thought was your point but apparently not, so I guess you returned the favor by by allowing mine to whiz right past, Ms. I-want-to-ride-my-damn-bike-in-the-9 p.m.-daylight-no-matter-how-hypocritical-that-may-be-Tamara-Keel.

The "actionable offense" is teh Stoopid, so until they come up with a "citation" for that, I guess we can use all the others to wipe our asses for all the good they do. Get the point?


Tam said...

"The "actionable offense" is teh Stoopid..."

No, the actionable offense is reckless driving. ;)

Tam said...

(ie, if your driving is not visibly impaired, then you are not driving while impaired. If you actually hit something and there is evidence of impairment, then you were driving while impaired. This is not complicated.)

Anonymous said...

No preemptive law? I like it. Lotta job security at risk there though, so good luck with that.

"...the actionable offense is reckless driving."

So reckless = impaired?

And in virtually every instance, impaired = stoopid. Damn subjective definitions. Unfortunately, stoopid is not an actionable offense, though as the root of so much recklessness and impairment it should be. But you know, definitions again.

And driving is just one of those many twigs, ain't it?

"This is not complicated."

Oh it is.


Rob said...

Just My 2¢ said..."Another solution is "Idiot in possession of a motor vehicle.""

Good luck getting that one past the congress critters. I doubt they'd want their licenses revoked.

Robin said...

The Law of Unintended Consequences always applies.

BS Footprint said...

Oh, we're a loooong way from "no harm, no foul".

I don't hear people saying "it's a free country" much these days, either.

Nice of you to express that sentiment, though.

Tam said...


"So reckless = impaired?"

No "reckless=reckless".

The action is the offense, not the reason for the action. It doesn't matter if you crossed the double yellow because you were inept or impaired, the problem is that you crossed the double yellow.

" good luck with that."

Oh, this is all just pie-in-the-sky stuff anyway. I'm sure there are plenty more laws and prohibitions coming soon to a traffic code near you!

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

It's teh gummints job to keep it's subject safe and to tell them what they can and can't buy or do with their own property. And it's good intentions that count, not results. I think that's in the Constitution. Near the front or something.

See? And folks said I didn't pay attention in Civics class.

Joe R. said...

I still see people here in the People's Republic of Taxachusetts texting while on the road. As one of the people said above, they're hiding the device down by their crotch instead of on the wheel. It's obvious what they're doing - how long before someone dies because of the law and the stupid people who can't keep their mind on the road...

Joe R.

Robert said...

"Oh, this is all just pie-in-the-sky stuff anyway. I'm sure there are plenty more laws and prohibitions coming soon to a traffic code near you!"

Yeah, my rep (Heath Shuler) wants to kiss up to Mothers Against Drinking and give away 60 million more of our tax dollers, to add $2000 to the price of all new cars by putting alcohol sensors in them....

Anonymous said...

"I'm sure there are plenty more laws and prohibitions coming soon to a traffic code near you!"

Yep, we could change the old saw to: "nothing's for sure but death, taxes...and laws, lotsa laws."

Man, ya gotta have a lawyer just to live, die, and walk around...waitaminute...scratch that.

Kill all the lawyers!


staghounds said...

I generally agree with Tam's point, and every state has a recklessness statute.

I believe the problem is that some things are so predictably dangerous that they rise to the level of intentionally making yourself dangerous as a driver, AND they can be detected and proven before the self-made-dangerous driver actually kills somebody.

So some driving while ___ make sense. Drunk, nine years old, blind, car without brakes.

It's a legislative decision whether "texting" falls in there or not.

The "no harm no foul" element is provided by the need that there be a reasonable, articulable suspicion to stop the car. So no foul, no catch.

FWMOIW, driving while texting is as stupid and dangerous to the texter and me as driving while blindfolded. And I think the startling/concealment effects of the law on the people stupid enough to violate it probably make the roads no safer.

The real effect of DWT laws is that it can be proven after a wreck (by telephone records) and used to assign fault in civil cases.

Leaddog said...

It has nothing to do with safety and all to do with generating revenue. Like seatbelt laws.

As said here several times, if safety is the concern then the only actionable offense should be endangering others by crossing the lines, weaving in traffic, bouncing off curbs, etc, or causing a collision. At the time of the collision the reason you were driving in an unsafe manner could be used as a mitigating circumstance in determining the penalty.

The problem with this is that it does not allow the LEOs to generate revenue by just pulling you over and accusing you, writing you a citation, and then causing you to spend more in time and lost wages than the fine to defend yourself against it.

This generates revenue and THAT is the reason for the law.


og said...

"It has nothing to do with safety and all to do with generating revenue. Like seatbelt laws."


Anonymous said...

Cowboy Rick vetoed the no twd out here in Texas.


Firehand said...

Hell, they don't need to pass ANOTHER law for the income generating; just use what's already there.

When the idiots at the state capital were busy working on a 'driving while texting' law, somebody asked "Why not use the damned reckless or careless driving laws already on the books?" The answer boiled down to "Not specific enough/doesn't quite cover it/because we want a new law."

Frikkin' idiots.

diesel smoke said...

Hello Tam,
In a previuos life, (30 yrs ago) I drove a semi around so-cal. I got a great view of the dumb ones. My opinion is most of the people driving need to be on the bus bench. That includes the bus driver. All of the laws to protect us from us are passed by the idgits for the stupid.

Never be in a rush to die.

Brad K. said...

@ Tam,

You left out "Driving While Under the influence of Adrenaline", which last for 28 minutes (according to my teacher manual, "Teaching Tools"). Like, say, after the Police cruiser just camped within 15 feet of my back bumper for the last mile, or buzzed from a really great, exciting movie, like, oh, "Nuns on the Run" or "Sound of Music 2", "Hannah Montana", or even a re-run of that quirky love story, "Hitman".

Brad K. said...

@ Staghounds,

Recall that there were those that wanted to ban airline travel as un-natural, and playing rock-and-roll in cars as being obviously causing too many wrecks. Cigarettes -- lighting, getting the next one out, dealing with the ashes -- was shown to cause wrecks, but the efforts to get that banned never amounted to much. Now some cities ban fast food while driving for the very same problems.

Last week I encountered a woman leaving the local Wal-Mart parking lot, with a new novel (still had Wal-Mart price tag on the dust jacket) held to the top of the steering wheel, reading away while driving.

I mean, really. I decided years ago that we shouldn't read while driving. It makes the other drivers nervous.

As for "easy to prove", I imagine that another consequence is that there will be a black market for gadgets and programs to fudge the records, so there is no legal evidence about texting and time frames.

But you miss the point. The point is not that some instances can be ticketed before an accident occurs. Heck, now that cities have camera tickets for "running" red lights, they are playing games with shortening the time for yellow lights to increase revenues from tickets. Explain to me how either ticketing by camera reduces accidents, or shortening yellow caution light intervals reduces accidents.

With "Driving while x" laws, including texting, you ignore the fact that some folk do, over the course of a lifetime, learn to drive while x. Yes, the drunk drivers do have more accidents, and they are tragic. Yet most neighborhoods have a poor sot that everyone knows drives the same back route, the same time, the same days, the same advanced level of intoxication. Or putting on makeup during the morning commute, or talking on the cell phone, or listening to rock and roll on the radio, or playing the recorder .. uh, anyway.

Should we ban grammar, because some people haven't learned grammar? Should we ban voting, because some places and people violate voting laws? Should we ban hand guns because some police shoot innocent people, or can't be bothered with double checking the target address? Should we ban long guns because President Obama sold guns to the Mexico drug cartels (Gunwalker/BATFE)?

Should we ban military enlistments, because not everyone survives with an honorable discharge? Should we ban marriage because some people just want the sex? (Ooh, but officer I have two witnesses that heard him say he wanted a family!)

The tighter the regulations, the more disrespect people have for the body of laws, and the more people tend to pick and choose what law to obey, and what they consider obedience. There are a couple of communities now that have withdrawn all traffic laws in their jurisdiction, removed all traffic signs and lane marks. Each came up with fewer accidents, fewer injuries, and fewer deaths.

The "obvious" dangers that must be outlawed, too frequently mean that someone is required to be looking.

Police have no responsibility to safeguard any individual (they "protect" the community, not individuals, according to the Supreme Court), they cannot and do not police every individual all the time. Enforcement is by nature hit-or-miss, depending mostly on statistics and who happens to see what. That is, no restrictive law can ever be completely effective -- only enforced. Anything that improves enforcement, without improving effectiveness, is like fighting a war on drugs, on poverty, and on terrorism -- great political slogans and lengthy federal career paths, with no benefit to the nation.

Jake said...

While we're at it, can we ban statutory speed limits in rural areas? If I can safely do 115 because it's a clear day, there is no one else on the road, and my car is in great mechanical shape ... Why shouldn't I be allowed to?

Brad K. said...


Why, yes. I believe this is referred to as "thinning the gene pool". Allow those that wish to risk, and lose, their lives being dramatic and exciting (i.e., court danger in inordinate ways).

Works for me.

Keep in mind, fewer roads today are as well kept as they were in the 1960s, and that isn't likely to get better any time soon. Also, folk in rural and urban areas are driving vehicles from tractors to cars and trucks that need maintenance, and won't be traveling more than 10-45 mph -- and drivers will still be pulling out in front of you, unexpectedly.

Enjoy. YMMV.