As I've mentioned previously, "distracted driving" — talking on cell phones, texting, eating, reading maps, etc. — has repeatedly been shown to be at least as dangerous to human life as drunk driving. See, for example, Drunk Drivers vs Distracted Drivers and Drunk Driving vs Distracted, Drowsy or Drugged Driving.
So why have penalties become so severe for DUI and yet remain only a slap on the wrist for distracted driving?
Mothers Against Drunk Driving has been very successful over the years in pressuring legislatures and courts to pass increasingly harsh laws and penalties. They've done this by focusing on "the slaughter on our highways". But…are they truly focused on saving lives? Or is there an underlying agenda?
Hint: If you look at their website, you will find MADD's "Mission Statement": “The mission of Mothers Against Drunk Driving is to stop drunk driving, support the victims of this violent crime and prevent underage drinking.” Note #1: Saving lives from distracted driving is not a concern — only with drunk driving. Note #2: The concern for underage drinking is unrelated to driving or victims.
In other words, MADD's concern is, as it was in the Prohibition era many years ago, not "slaughter on the highways" but…. alcohol.
And in today's news….
State's Distracted Driving Law Comes Under Fire
Fredersicksburg, VA. Oct. 3 –Spotsylvania County’s top prosecutor says problems with distracted-driving laws remind him of the old days when drunken driving wasn’t taken seriously enough.
DUI laws eventually were stiffened, but only after deadly crashes piled up, said Bill Neely, Spotsylvania’s veteran commonwealth’s attorney.
The same thing might be happening in Virginia with distracted driving, he said.
In recent years distracted driving has become a target for federal transportation authorities. They say the problem, primarily text messaging and calling, is dangerous and growing. Last year, the National Transportation Safety Board asked for a full ban.
There are 39 states that ban texting while driving. Ten states have laws against drivers using cellphones, which are the primary target because so many drivers use them to talk on or text while behind the wheel…
Virginia’s law against drivers using handheld devices is a secondary offense that carries a $20 fine. It’s also a secondary offense for novice drivers to use a handheld device. A secondary violation means police cannot bring the charge unless the suspect driver is stopped for another offense…
More than 3,000 people nationwide died and another 419,000 were injured in distracted-driving crashes in 2010, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
A 2009 Virginia Tech study determined that the crash risk increases 23 times for distracted drivers. The study included drivers doing such things as texting, talking on a cellphone, reaching for objects and eating.
Neely wonders if people understand how serious the problem is.
“You’re just as distracted as if you were drunk” when you text and drive, Neely said.
Just as dangerous as drunk driving — but only a $20 fine. And the sounds of silence from MADD……