Thursday, May 6, 2010

TWD - Texting While Driving

With a stroke of the governor’s pen yesterday, Wisconsin became the 25th state to ban texting while driving. The law will take effect in December. First question: why wait until December? Can’t we put it into effect NOW – or, say, on Memorial Day or the 4th of July? How many more lives will be lost, how many wrecks will there be, how much property damage will be done in the seven months we have to wait?

And how many more times will I be nearly run off the beltline by some idiot who’s concentrating on his or her cell phone, and not on driving?

Not that the new law will likely change any behavior. Every text message is apparently so important to some people that they will readily risk life and limb to read and respond to it.

The new law will carry with it the same fines connected with inattentive driving, ranging from 20 to 400 dollars. I say it should be 400 bucks for the first offense, and a year in prison for the second.

Why is it that people can’t just wait till the next off-ramp and stop their car before reading or responding to a text, or simply ignore it until they get where they’re going?

The law also will mean a mandatory unit on distracted driving for kids in driver ed classes.

I have had harrowing experiences dealing with texting-distracted drivers of all ages and both sexes. Last Friday, my wife and two dogs and I were loaded into my gas-guzzling foreign-made SUV, headed west on the Beltline, bound for the Badger Prairie dog park in Verona. Near the Park Street exit from the belt, I saw in my side-view mirror a Chevy Impala start drifting into our lane, behind us.

I was in the far right lane; the young man “driving” the Impala was in the center lane; and he was paying ZERO attention to driving. I slowed a bit so he’d be ahead of me, so I could keep an eye on him. He passed us, and as he went by, I looked down into his car and saw him with his cell phone in his hand, texting.

He weaved into our lane about a hundred feet ahead of us; then quickly corrected as he looked up for a moment; then, about a half-mile farther down the road, near the Seminole Highway exit, he weaved way over into the far left lane, and a moment later, again “corrected” sharply.

We got off at the Verona Road exit, thankful that someone else would be killed by this idiot.

And this is about the tenth time this has happened to me in the past month. Soccer moms, young kids, grown men – I’ve had to change lanes or speed to accommodate their wandering while they text.

This new law is one of the few that I welcome. I hope the cops write ticket after ticket, and I wish the penalties were much, much stronger.

People are getting killed out there.


  1. I've noticed a distinct deterioration in driving with people using cellphones (not even texting) between 5 years ago and today.

    And--like this or not--the worst ones are female.

  2. I recall reading someplace years ago (and I don't remember where, so I can't link) that talking on a cell phone while driving is a level of distraction equivalent to driving after five beers. By that standard, texting while driving must be up around a 12-pack.

    Damnedest thing is, I can't IMAGINE trying to it myself. But then I'm an old guy.

  3. That should have been "trying to do it" myself.

    See, I can't even text when I'm motionless at my desk.