Sunday, January 31, 2010

I'm Sorry, I Don't Buy the Dangers of Hands-Free Talking While Driving

"Studies show" is the media's favorite phrase... especially when what the studies show is"technology bad." Online Predators! Brain Tumors! Identity Theft! Hearing Loss! Internet Addiction! Exploding Batteries!

News anchors shake their heads with dismay after each alarming report. They chuckle, smugly. "Whatever happened to the days when people talked to each other?" or "I find a pencil and paper works for me."

Proud Luddites, these anchors. As they sit in an HD studio with Blackberries in their laps.

So when "studies showed" that "cell phone use while driving is as dangerous as driving drunk" obviously that was red meat for the info industry.

And like all memes it got squished and squeezed as it moved through the media digestive tract, until it lost all meaning. What kind of use is dangerous? Texting? Talking? GPS? Yelp? With hands? Without hands?

Doesn't seem to matter anymore. "Cell phones in car bad."

I obviously agree that any cell phone use that involves your hands or eyes -- texting, apps, in-hand use -- is dangerous and distracting,
and I support all laws prohibiting such use. (Frankly, I've used a headset for all calls in my home for decades, for comfort reasons, so I'd never think of holding a phone in my hand in the car.)

But now I keep hearing that hands-free use is the next legislative target? That Bluetooth use is as dangerous as drunk driving??

Nuh uh. No way.

Next time someone shares that factoid with you, the proper response should be, "Use your head." Or "Bullshit"... "Poppycock"... "Demonstrably untrue"... Really it's up to you. (Personally, I always encourage a sniffy, "I say good day, sir!" but that's me.)

But think about it. I have a Bluetooth speakerphone in my car. So I do not fiddle with any device on my person, nor do I try to keep anything precariously plugged in my ear. I simply speak. Is that dangerous?

Well then obviously any kind of speaking in the car is as dangerous or moreso. Someone who drives with a passenger in the seat beside them also has a conversation. The only difference between my Bluetooth conversation and a driver-passenger conversation is that I keep my eyes on the road at all times.

Seriously, have you ever seen two people in a car talk without once looking at each other? Of course not. It's only natural to occasionally look at the person next to you, or into the rear view mirror if they're behind you. It's human nature. And it's a distraction.

Wanna know something even more dangerous than talking to a passenger? Have you ever seen a parent with a child in the back seat? How about one with two or three kids back there? Are you seriously going to tell me that that parent is paying more attention to the road than I am when I'm hands-free? Poppycock.

What about cupholders? Standard equipment, encouraging you to take one hand off the wheel and enjoy a sometimes-scalding-hot beverage while driving. When I'm hands-free, my hands are, by definition,
free to be on the wheel.

In 'N' Out asks after every order if you're going to eat your food in the car. Most drive-thrus offer wraps so you can eat them one-handed while driving. Add in that big soda in the cupholder, and you're now using one hand to hold the wrap and the wheel while you sip with the other. Perfectly legal, no stigma attached.
Muy dangerous.

Add to that doing make-up, changing CD's, reading newspapers, and all the other dangerous things people do while driving, and I think you've got a long list of legislation to pass. I mean, if you're going to ban hands-free conversation while driving, it's only fair to ban all those other, more distracting, more dangerous activities first.

And if hands-free talking is ever banned, I personally will civilly disobey until all of the above are banned as well. I also insist on a law prohibiting receiving a hand job while driving. Not because I'm anti-hand-job (far from it) but because I would pay good money to watch that debate.


Anonymous said...

Well, is this Sir Michael?

Sure does sound like you.

Did I really guess your last name? Let me know. :)

Kim...Your Creme Brule

Michael Markowitz said...

I;m so sorry, Kim, I don't think I'm the Michael you're looking for. But if he's out there, come on, find Kim, she seems really nice.

peeky said...

I can handle a short conversation while driving, but in my case, it's not generally a good idea for me to talk on the phone while driving. I'm sure this is true for many people, but the difference is, I know it. Some can and some can't. Unfortunately (for you, who are able to negotiate it), it has to be legislated on the "can't" side. Full disclosure: I hardly ever have to drive! Hi.

Michael Markowitz said...

Only someone who seldom drives would so cheerfully surrender the rights of drivers. I apologize, and all due respect, but the doctrine of "We must all only be permitted to do what the least capable of us can handle" is preposterous.

For example, I seldom drink, but if I've had one beer I don't drive. I am not tipsy, I don't believe I'm impaired, but I'm not confident enough in my abilities to get behind the wheel. But that's me. We don't base the law for all on my assessment of my own limitations, nor should we base it on yours.

I am not qualified to handle a firearm safely. Not just training, but in terms of reaction time, dexterity, etc. But others are still allowed to. Some people try to juggle CD's while they're driving and fail, lethally. But CD's in cars are still legal.

I've seen people engrossed in conversation, and one of them walks into traffic accidentally. But we don't ban "walking and talking."

As I said in the post, of all the distracting things people do in the car -- I mean, seriously, driving with kids in the back?? Are you kidding me?? -- hands-free conversation is the LEAST dangerous. Think about it. You must see that.

If they ban hands free conversation they must ban ALL conversation in cars. If they pass a law that a driver is not permitted to speak to a passenger -- that they must ride in total silence -- then I'll obey a hands free ban. Hi!

peeky said...

I do understand your logic. And I also think children should be banned (from cars) and guns should be mandatory (in cars).

Michael Markowitz said...

See now we're totally on the same page. I support your platform entirely.