We live in a strange, strange world (not because of what follows, but the cause of what follows). Congress has just authorized a grant program that provides $17.5 million in FY 2013 to states that have enacted or are enforcing anti-distracted driving laws, including anti-texting statutes. This is part of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, which governs U.S. federal surface transportation spending.
So why is this strange? Well, this grant program is meant to combat a device (the cell and smart phone) that, supposedly, has made our lives more progressive. Though I think we can all argue that in many ways, device mobility is having a lot of opposite, unintended effects. Distracted driving just happens to be the most visceral of these consequences.
To qualify, a state must have a comprehensive, primary law against distracted driving or a primary law prohibiting texting while driving. There is no federal law that covers distracted driving, so it falls on the states to draft legislature. Ten states and the nation’s capital prohibit hand-held cell phone use, and thirty-nine states and D.C. have banned text messaging while driving.
There is also $5.0 million appropriated for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to develop paid advertising to support state enforcement of distracted driving.
As a pedestrian, watching someone send or read a text from the driver’s seat makes me nuts. The same goes for horn-honking moms plowing through intersections to make a yellow light (with their children in the car seat in the back), and people who like to nudge their way into a crosswalk at a high-volume intersection, making people walk around their car.
These are all things that can be avoided with a little bit of patience. Hopefully the texting will be lessened by this new bill, because I don’t know how fix crappy drivers who honk and clog crosswalks outside of sticking my chewed gum on their windshields.