I'm not exactly sure how to react to these new laws that are intended to enforce what most people would consider common sense behavior. They seem so incredibly unnecessary, but I guess the reality is that there a lot of stupid people out there. And I certainly think that it makes sense to give law enforcement officials the authority to punish those people for their stupidity.
Over the past few years, many states have passed laws banning texting and driving. I suppose if I were more motivated, I could easily look up the answer to this question...but I wonder if it's possible to avoid punishment based on the technicalities of the law. Does the law really only ban texting, or is it general no-phone legislation? For example, if I'm emailing behind the wheel and get pulled over, can I avoid a ticket if I can prove that I had Verizon shut off the texting capabilities on my phone long ago?
And how tightly do these laws define "driving"? I've been known to surf the internet while waiting at red lights. It's a strategy I strongly advocate--not only does it make productive use of a few boring, idle minutes, but I would argue that if everyone followed my lead, there would be far less road rage among the after work, stop-and-go crowd. Using a smartphone in an unmoving vehicle is hardly dangerous. What's the worst that happens--someone fails to notice that the light turned green and the drivers behind him start honking?
Now, Fort Lee, New Jersey is passing a law to make texting and walking illegal. The local police chief cites twenty-three pedestrian accidents as the cause for this new law, but I think we can all point to one person who really caused this mess:
Cathy Cruz Marrero, the infamous fountain flipper, is the obvious mascot for this legal crusade. After hilariously tumbling into a mall fountain in Pennsylvania while texting, she went on Good Morning America and other news programs, complaining about the tremendous embarrassment she suffered after the surveillance footage went viral. She even considered filing a lawsuit against the mall security team who let the video find its way onto the internet. Given that the person's face is unrecognizable in the video footage, one wonders why someone so afraid of public humiliation didn't simply skip the press tour and remain anonymous. But then again, it's clear that common sense just isn't one of Marrero's strengths. Looks like someone is fishing for an easy payday at the bottom of a fountain...
There's also the less-known but equally hilarious case of a man near Glendale, California who nearly got himself killed while focusing a bit too much on his phone. A bear had been wandering around a California neighborhood regularly for over a month, and the man woke up and heard a helicopter overhead--a helicopter, he would later learn, that was tracking the bear as it walked near his house.
The went outside to check out the action and decided to send his boss a text, explaining that he was going to be late to work. While typing his message, the man came dangerously close to walking into the bear. A brilliant move, indeed, but the man survived to get himself killed another day. Luckily, the helicopter was there to capture the footage:
With incidents like these making headlines, it's no wonder that towns are starting to pass these common sense laws. The article that I read later posted a clarification, noting that the law does, in fact, allow officers to issue tickets for "dangerous walking," which includes, but is not limited to, texting and walking. I'm quickly losing faith in my "officer, I was emailing, not texting!" defense...but I still wonder about the unmoving vehicle defense.
Anyway, there's clearly a better way to deal with idiots who don't pay attention to their surroundings, whether they are driving or walking. If only there were a way to relocate all of these people in one area and just let them Charles Darwin each other out of existence. Mount some HD cameras at all the street corners, and in a matter of weeks YouTube will be teeming with epic collisions involving drivers who were too distracted by their phones to notice that they were about to hit a pedestrian who was too engrossed in texting to get out of the way. Throw some loose bears into this utopia of stupidity, and the rest of the world will be a safer and more entertaining place.
Here are some links: