Safer Streets for Sioux Falls wants a complete ban on the use of electronic devices while driving in Sioux Falls. KELO-AM’s Greg Belfrage reminds his listeners that research shows using phones is a major distraction in the car, but he says a phone ban won’t work any better than the texting ban. Sioux Falls blogger Scott Ehrisman agrees that a phone ban is unnecessary and unenforceable. Belfrage and Ehrisman would prefer that we focus on education to tell drivers to put their phones down and drive.
I am pleased to see that the conservative Belfrage and the independently contrarian Ehrisman can agree with me that fiddling with your phone is irresponsible behavior behind the wheel. I disagree that a ban is unenforceable: if I can bike through Aberdeen and spot drivers with their phones in their hands or with that telling, intent stare at their laps, so can the police.
Sioux Falls City Councillor Greg Jamison, alas, legislates from the fallacy of personal specialness and a poor understanding of the rules of the road:
While Sioux Falls City Council member Greg Jamison agrees with the ordinance against texting and driving, he’s not in favor of the advocacy group’s newest proposal.
Jamison said, “You’ve got the government in your car telling you how to do everything, and I think some of us would just as soon have a little privacy and be left alone a little bit.”
Jamison says he, along with many other people are able to talk on the phone and drive safely every day without causing any harm [Caiti Blaise, “Cell Phone Use While Driving Could Be Banned in Sioux Falls,” KDLT-TV, 2015.05.23].
Councillor Jamison sounds like the folks who insist they can multitask, when multitasking is actually a myth, not to mention inefficient and ineffective.
Jamison also incorrectly invokes privacy. Drivers have a significantly reduced expectation of privacy, as evidenced by our countenance of sobriety checkpoints, in which police detain and search drivers without warrants, probable cause, or reasonable suspicion. There may be other ways to defend selfish behavior behind the wheel, but privacy isn’t a valid argument. If you want a private conversation on your phone, Councillor Jamison, you need to do that at home, while not in control of a few thousands pounds of hurtling metal death. Put down your phone and drive.
Back in the day, Drivers Ed was part of the school curriculum. I have often said one of the worst things this state did was pull Drivers Ed out of the curriculum and make parent’s pay for the class out of their own pockets. Sioux Falls drivers are bad enough as it is. A yellow light means step on it. A stop sign means roll through and see if the person in the car who has the right of way will slam on his/her brakes while you pull out in front of them. The majority of vehicles do not have working turn signals, even the newest models. Obeying speed limits is non-existent. I agree it is about education and very few people anymore seem to understand the term Defensive Driving. But I guess when we have a state that does not believe in education, the next best thing is to just pass laws telling people what they can and cannot do since they do not appear to be smart enough to figure it out for themselves. Enter vehicle. Turn off phone. Drive to destination. Exit vehicle. Turn on phone. If you desperately need to make a call. Pull over. This really should not be that difficult for people to wrap their brain around.
South Dakota can’t use Texas’ excuse of needing the only available driver’s training car for sex education classes. If abstinence only sex-ed works so well,imagine how abstinence only drivers training will work.
I grow so weary of that statement, “the government telling us what to do” (or similar statements like that) in a state where they have no problem telling women what to do with their bodies, or telling landowners that they will support foreign companies installing pipelines on their land.
Mr. Jamison does understand that he is government, right? And he does make decisions that tell people what to do, right? In a perfect world, I guess, we wouldn’t have to have laws like this. However, some people are just too ignorant or have nary a care for anyone but themselves, that it makes these things necessary.
If Mr Jamison (and others) don’t want to look at this with common sense and how lives are horribly impacted when traffic accidents occur that result from inattentive driving – then how about looking at it financially? (city council has a budget to maintain, right?) How much money does it cost when a traffic accident occurs? What does it cost the city for police, fire, and ambulance to respond and investigate these accidents? Accidents, that if prevented, would have saved the city that much money? And then as a society, how much does it cost us in increased insurance premiums?
Maybe a trip to the morgue sometime, to see victims of a traffic accident that didn’t have to happen and was preventable….would change his mind?
In a study of distractibility, talking on the phone hands free rated 2.3 out of 5, talking on a phone with hands rated 2.4 out of 5, listening to an audiobook ranked 1.75, and doing math problems ranked a 5. It just goes to show that math can kill.
Greg is wrong about privacy and Scott is wrong about enforceability. Now days virtually all computers (and that is what a “phone” is) synchronize time to networks (eventually lashed to atomic clocks). So if an officer sees John appear to talk on his phone, the officer merely notes or freezes the time display on his patrol car’s computer/GPS/moving map display, etc.), stops John, visits, and issues a citation. If John contests, the prosecutor will subpoena the phone record which shows date/hour/minute/second the phone was active on the network. If the phone’s activation time covers the driving time – conviction. Very simple. Very much assembly-line justice.
A challenging circumstance arises when John drives, looks at his phone for an address in an earlier text or email – then talks to himself. But here, if cited, the prosecutor’s phone record subpoena will show the network was not active for a call/text/email so the citation should be dismissed and an apology rendered. (should be!)
Driving distractions are situational – yet because situations are hard to perfectly categorize it makes sense to ban texting/phoning/emailing where the risk of real urban traffic exists; yet, not banning it statewide on our mostly empty rural highways. Of course Sioux Falls streets are occasionally empty at odd hours, and a few highways experience traffic increases during the rally – but an urban text/etc ban fits most situations most of the time. Recall also that a good deal of spontaneous alleged violator (aka drunk, reckless, etc.) or obstruction or highway condition information arrives at the dispatcher via the traveling publics’ cell phones.
Perhaps SD needs a distracted driving law similar to the seatbelt law that is enforced only in addition to other infractions – i.e., make it a Class 1 misdemeanor if it occurs in an at-fault accident; and perhaps a Class 6 felony if it occurs in an injury accident – that should drive home the point to pay attention when operating deadly wheeled missiles.
I make and receive phone calls as a matter of conducting the regular course of my business – in a large commercial vehicle – every day. I perform those activities while PARKED (not moving – not in gear).