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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Another year in Salem

I see that the new, improved Oregon legislature can't even pass a ban on holding a cell phone to one's ear while driving a car. Instead, we're going to get some shinola about a general driving-while-distracted offense -- an unenforceable standard that the resource-strapped police will never use. Ginny Burdick's in charge of that one.

Sometimes you wonder why we even bother having an Oregon legislature (other than to stimulate the economy of Maui, of course).

Comments (29)

They're almost as pathetic as Democrats in the US Congress. I mean, Dems won the election on a pull-the-troops-out-of-Iraq platform, when are they going to pull all war funding?

Are mealy-mouthed, non-binding resolutions the best they can do?

No. They are going to pass a law strictly prohibiting the President from "doing bad stuff."

I agree with you that what's likely to come out of the legislature is shinola. I'm OK with that 'cause we've got enough sh** already.

Sounds like the ultimate pretext stop excuse. "Uh, you appeared to be distracted. Now I'm going to search your car."

What's wrong with using laws that are already on the books? If you're distracted, you're distracted. Does the method of distraction make a difference?

The problem is that most people think "I can still handle a cell phone and drive -- I won't be distracted." And most of them are wrong. It's like driving after drinking -- we have a mechanical test based on blood alcohol content, because anything more subjective proved utterly unworkable.

Ginny Burdick should be on an investigative committee of one, checking out the mental hospital from the inside, with the keys thrown away. She is what makes the dimmos so laughable, in a pitiful manner..

Would an insurance company use a ticket to raise someone's rates and simultaneously exclude coverage for someone who had been distracted? That looks like a win-win scenario, which is the MO for you know who.

Suppose someone introduces a poison pill amendment that prohibits insurance companies from raising rates because of a distracted-while-driving ticket or, heaven forbid, prohibits them introducing as evidence in a court case any cell phone use, treating it as per se not distracting, or at least not any more distracting than so many other things. Would the insurance lobby drop the push?

I can picture an accident by someone that needs to immediately drop their phone because they got distracted by a cop.

If a legislative declaration of a fact is OK here is it OK too as to greenhouse gases, where the means to implement a remedy is to perhaps ban the production distribution and consumption of meat; along with the trans fats.

How long before a forced march is OK to, as healthy.

The forced march is a great idea -- we wouldn't need so much public transit to keep the car traffic down.

I think people realize that when they phone while driving (or drive while phoning) they are impaired -- they just need a law against it to help them give it up. In parts of the world where driving is regarded as a serious activity, worthy of concentration, that law has been in place for some time. Here, when a driver runs down a few pedestrians or cyclists through inattention it's just, well, an unfortunate accident. Oregon doesn't even have a vehicular homicide law, which is a pretty good indication of the standard of care applicable to those who take the wheel.

Not to mention a booming legal trade in putting drunk drivers back on the road.

Yes, I think using a cellphone, hand-held or hands-free, while operating a motor vehicle should become a citable driving offense. The empirical testing seems to indicate that using a phone while driving reduces your ability to concentrate, particularly upon peripheral objects. It creates a type of "tunnel vision". It's not whether the hands are free, but whether the brain is free to respond to appropriately to stimuli that are literally a matter of life and death...rather which toilet paper to pick up at the store.

I'd like to see other foolish behavior while driving cited, as well. But the number of morons who read the newpaper while driving is not expanding at a seeming exponential rate, like cell phone use is.

Can we ban unnecessary trips? I think that is something for which a court could take judicial notice of as eliminating the risk of an "accident." It has the added benefit of reducing congestion. We could enforce a requirement to maintain a log of all trips and the purpose. Failure to have the log could net an automatic six months suspension of the "privilege" to drive.

Please. Talking on your cell phone while driving is not like drinking and driving.

I think the legislature go it right this time.

Allan L. Let make even more laws. How about prohibiting changing your car radio or CD while driving or talking to someone in the back seat. Or maybe it should be a citable offense if you look in any direction but straight ahead while driving. Maybe it would be easier to say if your cell records show you were on the phone at the time of an accident you are ticketed.

"Talking on your cell phone while driving is not like drinking and driving."

Perfectly true except that, statistically, it is. You can look it up.

Cell phone usage has been proven to cause many, many accidents. It's as bad as drinking and driving -- some people can handle it, but far fewer than those who think they can -- and it needs to be outlawed.

Jack: what do you have to say about this:

While cell phones have recently sprung up as a common cause of car accidents, a study, the largest to date on crashes involving distracted drivers, found that rubbernecking causes far more accidents than cell phone use.

The largest number of accidents was caused by drivers looking at other accidents, traffic or roadside incidents. Comparatively, cell phone use ranked as the sixth highest cause. The study included data on more than 2,700 accidents involving distracted drivers between June and November 2002.

Moreover, some 98 percent of the accidents reported involved a single distracted driver.

According to the study, rubbernecking accounted for 16 percent of accidents reported. This was followed by driver fatigue, which was responsible for 12 percent, looking at scenery or landmarks (10 percent), passenger or child distractions (nine percent), adjusting the radio, tape or CD player (seven percent), and cell phone use (five percent).

Distractions from inside the vehicle accounted for 62 percent of the distractions reported while distractions from outside the vehicle accounted for 35 percent, and three percent of the distractions were undetermined.

Of the crashes that occurred in rural areas, nearly two-thirds of the crashes reported, common causes included driver fatigue, insects entering or striking the vehicle, or animals and unrestrained pet distractions.

In urban areas, automobile accidents caused by distracted drivers were often due to drivers looking at other crashes, traffic or vehicles, or cell phone use.

Researchers say that the findings likely apply to many regions in the United States because the study included a mix of rural and urban counties, a diverse ethnic population, and varying road conditions and types.

The Washington Post March 17, 2003

I just looked it up. And talking on your cellphone does not compare to drinking and driving.

Burdick is bought and paid for as evidenced by her recent city council campaign. She knows her bill is unenforceable and is engaged in classic mis-direction

I would still want to place the fact of risk in the section of legislation typically known as findings of fact that necessitate some sort of remedial measure - and thus reserve the conclusiveness of the cause of any accident up to a jury on a case-by-case basis. The notion of the introduction of the Contributory Negligence comes immediately to mind, as a once newly recognized defense so as to split the risk. Courts have routinely rejected any call to pry into the minds of legislators to glean any discriminatory intent (or I'd say graft) on the part of legislators that is not found within the text of any measure, and where findings of fact are often just useless bits of legislative dicta type stuff that betray no ill intent. (Inquiry into bad intent on the part of legislators is a problematic exercise at best.) I like the attempt at demanding clarity by the Landau concurrence in Young v. State of Oregon, (A100530, June 2, 1999). It is the height of absurdity here to convert Contributory Negligence to that of Strict Liability merely by way of misplacing the findings of fact section of legislation into the guts of the operative law. This would limit the legal bills of insurance companies dramatically. Shall we further declare all findings of fact in legislation as assertions of truth, by way of legislative edict? Can it be accomplished merely by relabeling the findings of fact section as operative law, prospectively for new legislation? I think I could reach the concerns of the court as to the issue of the defined roles of the legislative versus judicial branch. Why even have a court at all if all law and legal reasoning can instead be drafted in such minute factual detail that mechanical formulations will suffice for all, where reasoning is nothing more than "X be bad" because we say so? Prove X and thereby Prove Bad. You might as well throw out the right to a jury trial all together for all civil matters, rather than just for those below 25 or 50 grand where private parties are forced into arbitration. An insurance company would surely like to treat the need for a jury as a mere "privilege," so long as they have the upper hand in nearly every legislative body across the entire country. (See "Strict Liability" Landau)

I just looked it up. And talking on your cellphone does not compare to drinking and driving.

Really? Cause I just looked it up on the google (cellphone drinking and driving) and got pages and pages of links to reports and studies that say just that, including two different studies on the first two links I checked. So where exactly did you look it up?

Meh. I read those survey's and I'm not persuaded.

Let me just say again, the legislature got this one right.

WHO CARES if cell phone usage causes as many accidents as drunk driving? Just comparing those two causes is an asinine argument. Assuming Richard S's stats are correct, you can see that cell phones cause fewer accidents than messing with the radio. So I guess we better enact a specific Paws Off Your Radio law. And only half as many as child distractions - so obviously we need a Ban Bratty Kids From the Family Truckster law. C'mon already.

A few years ago the legislature felt compelled to pass a "Road Rage" law even though the existing reckless driving laws would apply. What they failed to grasp was that idiot motorist's obstructing traffic flow because they were preoccupied with their cell phone conversations were the direct cause of the aforementioned Road Rage!

Just because there are bigger causes of motor vehicle accidents than cell phone use doesn't mean that cell phone use while driving shouldn't be banned. There are bigger causes of accidents than drunk driving, too, but at some point you compare costs and benefits, assess fairness, and decide what's worth prohibiting as a safety measure.

One thing's for sure: what Burdick's committee is writing now is a joke.

A couple of additional thoughts:

1. How much money do the cell phone companies pour into Oregon political races every other year?

2. If there were a ballot measure banning cell phone use while driving, I bet it would pass 3 to 2.

Is the problem that people are holding the physical phone - and thus can't react quickly? Or that they are chatting and are thus mentally distracted?

If the former, we should ban them from holding anything - including drinks, food, phones, ipods, etc.

If the latter, we should ban them from talking on the phone, with or without a hands-free device.

Unless it's the intersection of the two. But then what about the person talking on a hands-free device while holding a soda?

For one thing, you don't have 20 tiny, shiny buttons on a soda that you can get very distracted trying to punch in some sort of complicated sequence. Or a small light-up screen with all sorts of animated displays.

I think that even with a hands-free device, the phone conversation can be quite distracting. But we're talking about trying to enact a law that police will actually be able to enforce. The phone held to the ear is usually quite obvious.

I used to live in Singapore, where because they aren't bogged down with messy democratic processes, one day they just flat out banned talking on cellphones while driving. End of story. $500 fine if you get caught. No debates, no soul searching, and nobody talking on their phones while driving anymore. Or chewing gum. Got to love a dictatorship- they get things done pronto.

Just because there are bigger causes of motor vehicle accidents than cell phone use doesn't mean that cell phone use while driving shouldn't be banned.

I don't recall you using this line of reasoning about Randy's trans-fat ban.

But then, there's much that I don't recall.


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