Turning inner space into outer space

December 28, 2010

Hello? Texting while driving is hazardous to your health

The letter to the editor calling for tougher laws against people who text while driving is right on.

My theory is that when you’re texting or talking on a cellphone, your brain is reacting to the conversation rather than what’s going on around you. Try this: next time you’re on the phone (anywhere — not just in the car), try to be aware of your surroundings. Chances are that it will take an effort, because for the most part our phone conversations consume us. The rest of the world is blotted out.

In fact, you might find that your actions while on the phone are directly related to what you’re saying. I was once a passenger in a car being driven on the Coquihalla highway, while the driver was having an animated chat on his cellphone. The louder he spoke, the faster he drove. When the talk became disjointed, he started swerving. In other words, it was the phone that was in the driver’s seat.

This is, of course, exactly the opposite of what should be happening in a car. You are, after all, in the care and control of two tonnes of metal. But will tougher laws change people’s habits? I say yes. The law is routinely ignored because people figure it’s too hard for police to catch them, and because they figure they’ll get away with a slap on the wrist on the off chance they do get caught.

This is the same attitude that used to prevail among drunk drivers. It’s sad but true, but only by cranking up the penalties have we been able to get people’s attention.