You may have heard that Oak Park, Ill., is considering a ban on eating while driving. Yes, that and sipping on drinks and putting on makeup and … texting and cell phone use.
“This isn’t government overreach; this is the government protecting people,” said Oak Park village trustee Colette Lueck, who floated the idea in the middle of debate over texting and handheld cell phones.
Actually, that would be government overreach.
Lueck, apparently, is dead serious. And the media has lapped up the story about banning eating while driving.
Critics of electronic distracted driving legislation — those addressing use of wireless communications devices — often cite “putting on make-up” or “eating while driving” as candidates for governmental sanctions. One guy brought up nose-picking.
These critics by and large are not serious. They argue against electronic distracted driving restrictions by summoning up specious dangers.
Last March, this blog reported the following exchange in Maryland’s distracted driving debate, after state Sen. Allan Kittleman playfully proposed a law against eating and while driving.
“You can’t tell me it is more safe to hold some French fries and a Big Mac and Coke than it is to look down and read some text messages,” Kittleman said to the sponsor of an anti-texting bill.
Sen. James Brochin, responded, dryly: “Eating is not a cerebral event. You just do it.”
What’s the harm in a larger debate?
Electronic distracted driving laws send a clear message about clear and present dangers brought on by a technological sea change. Diluting society’s directive that text messaging and operating mobile phones are potentially deadly behaviors can only add to the sickening body count. Young, inexperienced drivers don’t deal well with ambiguity and gray areas.
Newspapers nationwide are not printing obituaries for victims of drivers lost in enjoyment of their Slurpees. Safety experts do not come to high schools to demonstrate to students that they are impaired when changing radio stations. Putting on make-up has never been researched as a dangerous addictive habit.
Well-meaning legislators should focus on electronic distracted driving and leave the everyday inattentive behaviors to police and safety educators.
The current national debate needs to be about texting & talking while behind the wheel. Period.
As with driving, focus is everything.