04 August 2009

Modest Proposals for Insuring Safer Driving From All Those That Choose to Drive

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is convening a summit to suggest sweeping federal laws addressing the dangers of distracted driving. That's a waste of money, he could have just asked me to come up with some immodest proposals to improve driver safety, and I'd have been happy to oblige free of charge.

The threat posed by operating a vehicle isn't just distractions alone, rather, with modern vehicles it's the perceived safety, ease of operation, and great comfort that even the cheapest of late model cars provide a driver that leads to so many drivers succumbing to the temptation of a variety of distractions.

So rather than banning various behaviors behind the wheel, I say change the experience of driving all together, return the driving experience to a more visceral and physical ordeal and folks will have no choice but to focus on their task.

First ban all power steering, power brakes, and automatic transmissions. I used to drive a base model 57 Chevy, and believe me when I say nothing focuses your attention like having to keep a two ton beast of a vehicle safely on the road without all those modern conveniences.

Secondly, remove all safety equipment for the driver, passengers still get seat belts, air bags, and such, but drivers no such luck, knowing that an accident at speed could be fatal will aid in focusing a driver's attention like never before. Think of it like the exact opposite of the car Kurt Russell's character drove in Death Proof. In that film, his character had a 'death proof' safety cage for himself, and a death trap for his unfortunate passenger. That's wrong, and sadistic, it seems rather obvious that the person choosing to do the driving should assume the greatest risk when driving, it's only fair. It's very rare to see a person on a motorcycle drive distractedly, and it's the very lack of a safety buffer surrounding them that keeps those folks focused on their own driving and the driving of those around them. Apply some of that same perception of danger to people in passenger vehicles, and you'll see attention levels rise dramatically.

That's all there is to it, leave everything else up to the individuals, and with these simple changes, folks will be forced to make wiser decisions behind the wheel, simply because of the altered nature of the physical reality of the activity once these changes are implemented.

Otherwise, to be fair there is a huge list of distractions as dangerous as phones that need to be eliminated.

If we follow the government's route and ban all use of phones for drivers, hands free or no, then the list of distractions that also require banning gets long, but something worth doing is worth doing right so here's the entire list:

Radios and navigation systems should also be eliminated as they take valuable focus away from the road.

Also, children cause a great deal of distractions for their parents while driving, and while banning children completely from being transported would be impractical, requiring reasonable restraints and issuance of Silence of the Lambs style face masks to children (with the addition of sedatives for longer trips) so that they can't create potentially dangerous distractions from the back seat would be prudent.

Food is another big distraction, so drive thrus need to be banned as they pose too much of a temptation for folks, and "to go" meals must be served in tightly sealed containers that can't be opened without sharp knives handy (this won't prevent someone dedicated to eating while driving from doing so, but it will prevent most people from slipping and noshing while motoring).

The thing I notice most often drivers doing that seems patently unwise is applying make-up or shaving while driving, obviously any laws passed should encompass those activities, but enforcement has been difficult in the past as drivers who engage in this sort of stupidity are smart enough to not do it in front of officers. The answer is to make citizen submitted photographs and videos (taken by passengers only of course, as the act of recording someone else engaged in distracted driving is in of itself a form of distracted driving should the operator of a vehicle attempt to do so) sufficient grounds for issuing fines and citations. When capturing distracted drivers take a snap of the activity, and then the license plate, submit it anonymously, and then bask in the warm glow of knowing that you've contributed to public safety and making the streets and highways of Obama's America the safest and least distracted roads on Earth.

The other major source of distractions come from outside of the vehicle. Hot women or men dressed provocatively must not be allowed to be visible from places where cars travel. They simply present too great of a danger to public safety, a simple modest traveling cloak, not unlike the chador found in certain nations, would be a sensible precautionary measure to eliminate the deadly threat of some fleshy young woman, or well muscled and glistening shirtless young man, driving folks to distraction as they crane their necks to get an eyeful. Especially ugly folks would also need to cover up, as that can also be a major distraction, we humans are oddly compelled by extremes of both beauty and ugliness, it's in our nature, so rather than denying that nature, we must suppress the possibility of that human nature expressing itself in a dangerous manner.

Similar to the danger posed by hotties and ugly folk, unusual buildings or especially striking advertising must also be banned. Bland architecture, and boring ads are fine, but anything that demands too much attention must be hidden from view, it's a matter of life and death, it wouldn't be a case of undue government interference in to every last tiny aspect of people's lives.

So, there you have it, two separate avenues of attack to make driving safer, either make cars a beast to operate, thereby forcing drivers to be focused, or remove ALL possible distractions from inside and outside of vehicles so that folks won't be tempted to stray from their main task of operating their vehicles safely. My preference is for making cars more challenging, but it's up to the experts being convened by LaHood to decide what's best for us, cause that's how things work in Obama's America, expecting folks to exercise restraint or common sense is ridiculous. Instead the federal power of the purse must be used to cajole all the states into enacting layer upon layer of new regulations in all sorts of areas that used to not be the business of the federal government, cause that's what we chose when we chose to elect President Obama, and now we must enjoy all the Changes and Hopes he brings from on high down to the smallest detail of how we choose to live.

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