NEW YORK (MainStreet) The dusty work of consumer advocate Ralph Nader, whose book Unsafe at Any Speed blamed auto manufacturers of slow-walking safety innovations in the mid '60s, now seems more relevant than ever. But not as much in terms of vehicle builders as vehicle operators. Drivers have simply lost their minds. Whether you're driving a back road, residential street, parking lot or Interstate, the hazards abound. Careless, aggressive and distracted drivers are endangering us all.
In an effort to bring a bit of sanity back to the motoring madness, states and local municipalities are issuing all sorts of laws forbidding texting and handheld phone conversations. But common sense can't be legislated.
Consider the recent decision of a California court of appeal. The case involves a cop who pulled over a driver for operating a motor vehicle while using a cell phone. You see, the local jurisdiction involved in the matter prohibits hands-on use of a wireless phone for conversations.
But Mr. (Alleged) Distracted Driver disputed the arrest and appealed a lower court decision by saying that he had been holding his phone to look at a map not to talk.
After winding its way through the justice system, the issue finally landed in the lap of the California Fifth District Court of appeal. The court reversed the previous decisions and found that both the plain language of the statute and the legislative history supported the driver's interpretation.
Though the law was clearly attempting to compel drivers to keep two hands on the wheel while talking on a cell phone, it did not specify a concern for drivers using their phones for other purposes, including squinting at a smartphone map application while hurtling down a highway.
The U.S. Department of Transportation says that drivers are twice as likely to be involved in an accident if they are texting while driving. Perhaps they will now have to provide statistics on wrecks caused by map apps.
--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet