- May 14, 2007
- Indianapolis, IN
We've had this conversation before as a side topic of the .05BAC thread. Criminalize it; make using an electronic device while operating a vehicle an offense. (If hands free, it could be exempted). After all, there are other examples where reckless/negligent behavior is a criminal offense. Even when preemptive: - DWI/OWI - reckless driving - reckless discharge of a firearm - etc In these cases, do we wait until someone is actually harmed before an arrest is made? Nope - we have statutes that allow arrest due to the preponderance of risk PRIOR to someone getting hurt, recognizing that the actions are so dangerous and the probability of injury is great enough that making it a crime worthy of prosecution is accepted. We'd have to be willing to accept the fact that "evidence" would be limited until records could be gained via warrant. However that does not solve all issues. We'd have to acknowledge that there would be challenges as to "exact time" of commission of crime. If you want out of your house, and text/call your son JUST BEFORE driving out the garage, and I pull you over one minute later for texting, the argument will be "my phone record is not accurate enough to know the EXACT time which texts went in/out. So officer testimony would be paramount, and have to be relied upon as the sole means of conviction at times. Or, are you using the phone as a GPS tool? Or an alarm? (I mention the alarm because I don't wear a watch, and I use my phone as my morning alarm, and sometimes I actually am in the car prior to the alarm going off, and so I have to "turn off" the alarm when it sounds in the car ....) How are we going to deal with folks that deny their actions, by shifting blame via culpable diversion? (Mom drives, and texts, and then when pulled over, hands the phone to her 8 year old child and says "It wasn't me; it was my child with it in her hand" so even when the electronic records are subpoenaed, she's still hoping to be not convicted even after arrest). And as I also mentioned before, are we ready to clog up the courts with ever more cases? Slowing the already lethargic process? I mean, we're not talking about a few cases a year. This criminal act would probably become THE predominant charge for a while; the quantity would be significant. Would this be a bench trial, or go to a jury? Would there be prosecution-diversion programs? Imagine this: Q: How can an officer tell the difference between someone looking at their phone to "see what time it is" from someone who's looking at a text? A: He can't. But does it matter? Distracted by the phone is distracted by the phone. If we had a person "intoxicated" behind the wheel, the risk is the same regardless of the intoxicant (alcohol, marijuana, opioids, etc). Now - I'm not advocating for this; at least not in full; not just yet. There are a LOT of things to fairly and fully discuss in a statutory sense. We know for sure that texting (and such) while driving is dangerous. Just how willing are we to find a balance? Before you answer, ask yourself how willing you'd accept a criminal record for your actions. Or your spouse? Or child? This is, after all, why laws exist in the first place. People cannot always be trusted to "do the right thing"; they succumb to temptations at some time or another in nearly every age of life. Why do we have laws making child porn a felony? Why do we have laws making arson a crime? Why do we have laws making it illegal to operate a vehicle while in a diminished state? Do we really need laws to stop someone from doing these things (and a bazillion others)? Apparently, yes, we do. Because some folks won't stop otherwise, and so we have to arrest them to stop the act(s). Even arrested preemptively. Why would texting while driving be any different? We know it's incredibly dangerous, and I honestly believe that the stats don't even really bear out the real danger, because much of it goes unreported. I recently covered an accident where one person rear-ended another at a stoplight. Completely clear day, no pavement issues, clear and dry, no mechanical failures. No reason whatsoever for someone to just smash into the back of another car that was waiting at a stoplight. The person whom caused the accident said she wasn't texting. But how do I know this to be true? It only takes three seconds to turn off the phone and hide it in your purse, but it took me three minutes to arrive at the scene. Unless I can articulately describe to a judge why I think probable cause exists to subpoena phone records (of which having a "hunch" is not acceptable), then the evidence of the "crime" would go undiscovered forever. There were only two people involved; no other witnesses. No one to give me a reason past unsubstantiated suspicion to get a warrant for records. And so my point is that many times the true root cause of these events are unreported; the underlying root cause of electronic device goes undiscovered. And so it goes unreported. And so our data will always be suspect to not be wholly accurate. Before you sound off one way or another, ask yourself this: If I advocate for this one way or another, what are the five resulting things that will be caused to happen? What laws of unintended consequences will arise from my position for or against this topic? If one advocates for criminalization, what are the things you'd be willing to tolerate in exchange? More taxes for more prosecution? The likelihood that someone in your family will be arrested and need a lawyer? If against, how willing are you to accept that YOUR child might die from his/her own actions, or someone else? Just think before you post; think it all the way through to the end. Don't make it about politics. It's a discussion about CIVICS and not Parties. Personally, as someone who's old enough to remember when phones had cords and didn't exist in a car, we all got through life just fine without mobile media technology. But that genie is out of the bottle and likely never to return. So how do we deal with this in the aftermath?