Law of Distraction?

Because most people refuse to recognize the dangers of cellular telephones in automobiles, it is possible that technology will have to be used to prevent people from texting themselves, and others, to death.  Of course, text messaging is not the only problem, which states have tried to deal with by requiring the use of so-called ‘hands free’ devices when driving.  It is not what your hands are doing, it is what your brain is doing.  Just imagine being in a speeding car on a busy freeway while the driver is conversing on the phone, when they yell, “He said what!?”  Emotion can overwhelm our awareness of things outside of our selves, blinding us to impending events.  Cellular phones have become enormously profitable, and companies who provide the service are loath to restrict, in any way, the use of the devices.

But evidence is accumulating that the we may have exceeded the ability for the average person to multi-task with our gadget laden mobile communications devices.  The day may come when law requires that cellular service be withheld from any cell phone which is moving faster than 5 miles per hour, and that the phone automatically locks itself up when it is moving that speed or greater.  Such draconian measures probably will not be enacted until the accident rate directly attributable to cell phone use climbs beyond the toll that drinking and driving currently takes.

As an intermediary step, laws may require that cell phones send a record of their movements to a database that can be examined to determine if the phone was in use at the time of an accident, for evidence in criminal persecution.  Even though such information is highly sensitive, the death and mutilation of large numbers of people outweighs our right to use a device when we are posing a risk to others by using it.  And simply turning the phone off when we are not using it will protect our privacy, in more ways than one.

Many people are unaware that all modern cell phones contain a Global Positioning Satellite receiver, which allows the phone to know its exact location and speed at any time.  Creating the software to use that information to restrict or prevent phone use while driving would not be difficult, even though the phone companies are likely to claim otherwise.  Of course, this means that passengers will not be able to use their phones, either, which will cause much distress.  This may result in innovations to protect those who are not engaged in operating the vehicle from being held incommunicado, which will probably only be available for an extra fee.

Expecting that laws will prevent deaths resulting from cell phone use while driving to work is as reasonable as expecting laws prohibiting drinking and driving from working.  Human nature insists that we can handle the distraction that conversation represents, even when it is an emotional one, or that we are talented enough to write a message on a tiny keyboard while driving in traffic.  On the other hand, most of us do not like the idea that we may be killed or seriously injured because someone else was busy talking to another person about something which is completely unimportant in the greater scheme of things.


This is a perfect example of capitalism working against the greater good, by providing a product which is easily abused, which can lead to death for not only the user, but others.


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