Originally posted on Technorati as The Sin of Driving and Cheeseburgers.
I'm a criminal....
At least I would be if I were in California...
You see last night I was kind of rushed for time. Instead of taking an hour to get my dinner from a box that once lived in my cupboard I decided to hit Burger King on the way out to a client site.
Now I've done this before but I've learned which fast food fare I can wolf down without worrying about the distraction of actually eating it. For one thing, forget about anything from Carl's junior or anything that takes more than one hand to stuff into your face. I also make sure that should my selection decide to disassemble itself, it won't require me to take my eyes off the road.
I do most of my driving at night with light traffic. Stick me in a rush hour and you won't find anything more substantial than a pint of milk in my cup holder. After all we do have cup holders for a reason.
Yes, I too have suffered the distracted soccer mom with a phone growing out of her ear. I've tolerated the tone deaf teenager too distracted by the 1000's of decibels shaking the earth to notice that the traffic light has changed twice.
Distracted driving is a bad thing and you'll never convince me you can text and control an automobile any more than you can drive your car while standing on the roof. The question is, what constitutes a distraction. It seems the law isn't quite sure either.
While there's no law that explicitly cites driving while eating as a criminal offense ( or even a misdemeanor). Many state and municipal law enforcement officers are empowered to stop any driver for activity that the officer deems as distracting. In the case of California my trip through Burger King could cost me $1000.
This isn't the first time we've heard of enforcement of vaguely defined laws. In Arizona, for example, an officer can stop and cite you if he feels you were driving aggressively. Aggressively isn't well defined so anything from extended middle finger to ramming the car in front of you applies. Better keep that bird caged!
It seems that we see an ever increasing volume of laws designed to punish us for what we "might" do. Speed enforcement cameras, distracted driving laws and various statues aimed at limiting free speech fall into this category.
It may be 28 years late but Orwell's concept of "thoughtcrime" may be coming to pass after all. I'm sure the argument for the vagaries of such laws is that they'd be unenforceable otherwise. My response is simply that if you can't define the offense then there isn't one.
Here's a compromise. Those whose driving is distracted by other activities will be obvious. Other more well defined laws will no doubt be violated during the process. Pull them over for those offenses and if the behavior is egregious enough to merit it, then cite them for the distraction as a secondary offense.
The difference here is that we're punishing an actual offense, not the possibility of one. If we all were prosecuted for what we might do we'd all be in jail.
In the end there's no real motivation to have laws like this other than revenue when a citation for texting can cost you $145 while eating can cost you $1000. The argument of safer roads is a straw man meant to distract a fearful public from the real objective.
It's another example of cash starved governments preying on a population seemingly bent on abdicating personal responsibility. All for the sake of false security.
Yes, cheer as you roll by the well dressed man in the sparkling BMW who flipped off the driver of a subcompact who dared cut him off. Chuckle as he vainly tries to explain his plight to the officer busily scribbling in his ticket book but ask yourself what have you lost.
By the way, while you were watching the BMW guy....You were distracted....