More on this distracted driving monster we have created

The effort to reduce the reckless use of cell phones while driving continues – but it does not seem to be having much of an effect. Something as tempting as an incoming text message apparently can’t be ignored. The mere threat of a fine can’t compete with the urge to read and respond. Blah, blah, blah.

It might be a weird analogy, but the topic of public executions came up in conversation the other day. They were hugely popular entertainment for the lower classes back in the day, in England and elsewhere. But on the whole, they did litte or nothing to reduce – much less eliminate – thievery and other crimes. One wonders in this gentler age what sort of penalty for distracted driving might actually induce a change in behaviour.

The thing is, texting-while-driving is easy to get away with. Stand at a busy intersection in Slave Lake and count how many people are glancing down as they drive. One in five? One in four? Even the RCMP are doing it. Yes, that’s right; the folks that are supposed to be enforcing the distracted driving law are breaking it. They are just people, after all, and susceptible to the same urges.

It’s an interesting challenge. One among many where law enforcement is trying to change people’s behaviour through education and (at least to some degree) threats of punishment.

It can work. We reported recently on CN Rail’s campaign to let people know they aren’t supposed to be trespassing on CN property. Tickets will be issued. Tickets have been issued, and we’ve noted fewer people walking on the tracks in town.

It’s also been noted recently how much speeding in school and playground zones has decreased in Slave Lake in the past few years. Why? Pretty clearly it has to do with the real threat of tickets via the automated traffic enforcement provider.

Speeding is pretty easy to capture on camera and with the aid of laser equipment. It holds up in court. Same goes for rolling through stop signs.
But distracted driving? If it was simple, they’d already be doing it. Tinted windows work against it. The fact the cell phone is usually out of sight makes it harder to catch. You can see people glancing into their laps as they drive, but what does that prove? Pretty tough to get something that would hold up in court, we imagine.

Some unlucky pedestrian is going to get knocked over by a texting driver one of these days, right here in Slave Lake. Or if not that something along those lines. It’s just a matter of when, and who. Chances are pretty good the pedestrian will also be working his or her cell phone, oblivious to what is going on around.

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