The simple and sensible answer

There’s a lot going on in the Canadian media today about a statement made by the Canadian Automotive Association suggesting that young drivers should be banned from using handheld devices as part of graduated licensing. Many editorials are suggesting that the ban shouldn’t just be on young drivers, but on everyone.

No one in their right mind is going to disagree. We all know that driving is a dangerous activity…a privilege, not a right…and that our attention should be focused on the road and our vehicle. And yet, many of us still do it. Heck, I just did the other day.

Doesn’t add up, does it? Common sense says that we should put our safety and the safety of those around us ahead of a phone conversation. But convenience, as is so often the case, wins out.

I was watching Mythbusters the other day and they were investigating cell phones and drunken driving (separately) to see what the real-world effects were. They drove a training course with full attention on the road, then did it again while talking on a cell phone. Then they drank enough to be below the legal blood-alcohol limit in California (0.8%) and tried again.

As you might guess, the results were worse each time. Both drivers passed the test when they were concentrating, and both failed when distracted.

And yet we continue to drive with our cell phones, or after a few drinks.

I don’t drink alcohol very often, and rarely when I’m driving. I distinctly recall one trip home from the bar when I found myself driving and having some difficulty concentrating. Not dangerously so, by my estimation, but enough that I won’t ever repeat the experience. I only had one drink, but I suspect it was too quick. That was years ago, when I first started driving regularly in Ontario, and ever since then it’s one drink over a few hours. When we do wine tours through Niagara and I’m driving, I usually taste fewer wines than everyone else, so I’m probably consuming a glass to a glass-and-a-half over five hours or so.

My habits with a cell phone aren’t nearly as good, and I know it. I’m lazy, and when I get in the car I don’t bother plugging in my headset unless I expect to use the phone. So when I have to use it unexpectedly, I either fumble around to plug it in or just hold it up. Even though I know the dangers involved.

It’s just a calculated risk, right? True, but the logic is faulty.

A reasonable calculated risk occurs when the potential benefits outweigh the potential dangers. There’s really no great reward to picking up that phone, because all it can do is distract me from the road.

Well, that’s not going to be the case anymore.

People can say what they want about banning cell phones and Blackberries–I’ve got a simpler solution. From now on, when I’m driving, I’m driving. I’m not using the phone or my GPS. I’m not trying to change the CD or reach something on the passenger seat. I’m driving.

Regardless of what others do, I’m banning myself from a silly and bad behaviour. That’s got to be more effective than a law that has to be enforced by others.

It’s the simple answer, and the sensible one.

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Russ