Earlier this week there were a few news stories being run on phone and smartphone use by drivers, not just telephone calls but texting and smartphone usage. Unusually for articles covering criminal behaviour amongst motorists, the tone of these articles was almost universally one of disapproval. The AA survey on which these news items were based reported that at least 40% of motorist text and drive and whilst motoring organisations’ conclusions drawn from their surveys aren’t always all that reliable, it still represents cause for concern.
I suspect that many people reading will hope that smartphone use whilst driving will become the new drink-driving; still a problem but at least now something seen as unacceptable by most people. However, there is a second possibility, it might become the new speeding, which sees almost universal participation amongst motorists who, fed by a motoring lobby keen to convince its members they are victims, often rationalise enforcement against offenders as a somehow-unavoidable and cynical revenue generating activity.
I noticed that the usually far from publicity-shy Association of British
Nutters Drivers were quiet on this one, neither wading in to condemn or defend texting drivers. Even the crazy one-man satellite operation, East Midlands “Drivers” (who sadly usually has a lot to say) was oddly quiet on this one.
If the quoted ‘at least 40%’ figure were to become at least 50%, would texting or tweeting whilst driving become as acceptable amongst the motorist community as speeding is now? Suppose in a few years time that there was a feasible way to automatically detect motorists’ unlawful smartphone use at the wheel, and fine them. If by this point a majority of drivers engaged in this unlawful activity (as is currently the case with speeding) would drivers cease to generally condem this activity and instead act like bleat and moan and act like victims as is often the case at present with speeding enforcement? After all, many of the ways drivers currently rationalise their own speeding or complain about enforcement against their law-breaking can be recycled for texting and driving.
It’ll be interesting to see how attitudes to texting (and general smartphone use) whilst driving develop over the coming years. My own experience suggests that it is on the increase; as smartphones use is growing rapidly, so too are the near misses where van drivers nearly kill me whilst refreshing their Twitter feed.
For now, I shall be on the lookout for a press release from the ABD suggesting that restricting smartphone use amongst drivers actually causes *more* crashes, as poor anxious motorists are coerced into ever more dangerous manoeuvres in order to get home as fast as possible to legally hit the ‘Like’ button. Perhaps they are
fabricating gathering their evidence at this very moment.