Jon Ibanez and I have posted in the past about the dangers of "distracted driving" — that is, driving while using a cell phone, reading a map, putting on makeup, etc. See, for example, Jon’s recent post Is Distracted Driving as Dangerous as Drunk Driving?. And over 12 years ago I commented in Drunk Drivers vs Distracted Drivers on a wide range of research concerning the relative dangers of using cell phones while driving, such as:
A detailed study on the effects of cell phone use on driving was conducted by researchers at the University of Utah, and reported in a paper entitled Fatal Distraction? A Comparison of the Cell-Phone Driver and the Drunk Driver given at the Second International Driving Symposium on Human Factors in Driving Assessment, Training and Design (July 2003). Using a simulator, the researchers measured how subjects reacted to vehicles braking in front of them…The conclusion of the researchers: Drivers on cell phones showed greater impairment, less responsive behavior and more accidents than drunk drivers.
Yet, our legislators’ continuing fixation with alcohol — largely fueled by MADD’s political influence — has resulted in ignoring the ultimate goal of saving human life.
This appears to finally be changing….
Washington’s New DUI-E Law Takes Effect Sunday
Spokane, WA. July 18 – ….The DUI-E law, for driving under the influence of electronics, outlaws holding a cell phone at any time while driving, unless you’re calling 9-1-1 in an emergency. The law even prohibits picking up the phone at stoplights. The first ticket for an DUI-E will cost you $136. Get a second ticket within five years, and it’ll cost $234. The new law also tickets drivers $99 for grooming, smoking, eating or reading while behind the wheel. (Governor) Inslee says that in many cases a distracted driver is more dangerous than a drunk driver.
"When you are driving with a cell phone, you are a more dangerous driver than if you’re driving drunk with a .08 alcohol level," said Governor Inslee. He continued by saying this is a situation we deal with on a daily basis.
While this is encouraging, the news article continues with an observation by law enforcement that highlights the drunk vs distracted double standard:
Spokane County Sheriff’s deputy Craig Chamberlain says the new law isn’t meant to punish people. "The bottom line with the new changes in this law is that we want folks to be safe on the roadway."
So…the new distracted driving laws aren’t meant to punish people — only to make the roads safe? Then why do our drunk driving laws continue to be focused on punishment — of admittedly "less dangerous" drivers?
(Thanks to Joe.)