Wednesday, January 27, 2010

No Texting While Driving: Good Idea, But Why the Hurry?

"New rule for truck, bus drivers: No texting"
CNN (January 26, 2010)

"Drivers of commercial trucks and buses are prohibited from texting under federal guidelines that U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced Tuesday.

" 'We want the drivers of big rigs and buses and those who share the roads with them to be safe,' LaHood said in a statement. 'This is an important safety step, and we will be taking more to eliminate the threat of distracted driving.'

"The prohibition is effective immediately. Truck and bus drivers who text while driving commercial vehicles may be subject to civil or criminal penalties of up to $2,750, the Department of Transportation said in a news release...."

"...One of the nation's largest groups representing professional truck drivers -- the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association -- expressed support for the goal but dismay at its implementation.

" 'We support where they are going, but not how they got there,' said Todd Spencer, the group's executive vice president. 'Making their action effective immediately bypasses normal regulatory rulemaking processes. Those processes allow actions to be vetted for unintended consequences as well as potential implementation and enforcement problems.

" 'We very much share in their goal, but their legal justification for taking immediate action raises many concerns.'..."

New Texting Ban: Why the Rush?

I'm not a particularly patient man. I like to get what I want, right away! But I've learned to defer gratification. Particularly when a decision involves a lot of money, or affects somebody besides myself.

America has processes for evaluating nifty-sounding feel-good new rules. Astounding as this may seem, not all Federal employees are all-wise and all-knowing. Fact is, they're human beings. And having a few people take a look at a proposal is a really good idea.

It's sort of like proofing. A writer, like me, may know perfectly well what he or she meant: and be quite confident that there aren't any typos in a document. Then the editor sends it back, blue pencils around some glaring glitches. Like "then the to twins."

This no-texting-while-driving rule seems to make sense. It may be a good rule.

But I'm not entirely pleased with how it's been put in place, without the usual evaluations. Is the threat of texting truckers really that dire?

I think part of my wariness is that, for me, truckers aren't 'those people over there.' They're my neighbor, down the street, and the guys I stand in line with at the convenience store where I get gas.

I don't know why this rule was rushed through so fast. But I get a little more attentive, when the folks who run this country start acting outside the rules. Sometimes there's a good reason. Sometimes, not.

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