HERGOTT: Idiocy of distracted driving

Paul Hergott is a personal injury lawyer based in West Kelowna

Reader comments compelled me to write a follow-up to my column about the idiocy of our distracted driving laws.

There were a lot. And I wouldn’t want to leave my fan base hanging!

Actually, the comments were overwhelmingly negative, but sifting through those calling me and my ideas idiotic, skewed in judgment, half-backed, crazy, junk, garbage, pointless and vitriolic BS, I identified two themes that that I feel compelled to address.

One is about the level of government intervention in our lives.

One accused me of lobbying government: “to stick their noses into MORE of our lives”. Another: “Laws are there to keep the sheep in line”. Others: “Nanny state” and “You can’t change stupid!”.

I agree that government shouldn’t be sticking their nose where it doesn’t belong.

But stick their nose in they did. And in the worst way.

At a time when cell phone use was exploding and the driving public was starting to realize that we should leave our phones alone, they misled drivers into believing that hands free use was safe. Their idiotic law increased, instead of decreased, overall cell phone use while driving. And they doubled down on it, twice.

The only benefactor to the law, and they won big, was the hands free technology industry.

The rest of us lost, in increased health care expense, soaring insurance rates and very real personal losses.

Two wrongs don’t make a right. But there’s 10 years of damage that needs to be repaired. And I don’t see an alternative repair than very directly attacking the false perception that hands free use is safe.

Another theme is the perception that “looking down and texting” is the real problem. And that the law banning hand held cell phone use was enacted to stop that dangerous behaviour.

It is a prevalent and understandable perception. We can easily get our heads around the danger of taking our eyes off the road. It is less easy to grasp how there could be a danger when we are looking out of the windshield.

And our “distracted driving” laws have reinforced that perception.

There is no reference to that rationale in the Discussion Paper our government put together (and ignored) to inform their cell phone laws.

Worse, it turns out that “looking down and texting” is no worse than voice to text.

The two were compared in an April, 2013, study: An evaluation of the effectiveness of voice-to-text programs at reducing incidences of distracted driving. The Abstract notes: “Results indicate that driver reaction times were nearly two times slower than the baseline condition, no matter which texting method was used”. A quote from the Executive Summary: “These findings suggest that using voice-to-text applications to send and receive text messages while driving do not increase driver safety compared to manual texting.”

Here is a helpful video explaining the study:

And here is link to infographics provided by the United States National Safety Council, Infographics, one of which notes: “New studies show using voice-to-text is more distracting than typing texts by hand”. I have requested copies of the studies referred to. E-mail me if you would like me to share them.

The idiotic law has entrenched the dangerous and false message that hands free is safe, and that “looking down and texting” is the worst evil.

And drivers have been brainwashed to such an extent that a columnist exposing the clear science against those perceptions is subjected to name calling.

It is critically important that drivers learn that there is no benefit to using hands free technology. Please read the materials I have referenced and watch the video. And please share this important information with others.

Missed last week’s column?

HERGOTT: Driving while intoxicated

About Paul Hergott, Personal Injury Lawyer:

Paul began practicing law in 1995 in a general litigation practice. Of the various areas of litigation, he became most drawn to and passionate about pursuing fair compensation for personal injury victims, which has gradually became his exclusive area of practice. Paul’s practice is restricted to acting only for the injured victim, never for ICBC nor for other insurance companies.

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