Texting, Burgers and Buzz Lightyear

I love local paper polling questions and looking at their results. They are a fun way to see how people think and what they see as important. The questions are simple, and the answers are typically “yes/no” options. It’s not statistically reliable by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a quick and easy way to gauge public opinion.

It’s also fun when the most irrational topics are polled, and the poll results show a response driven by pure emotion rather than any sort of logic.

A recent poll in the Springfield News-Leader asked: “Should it be illegal to text and drive?” The answer was a resounding yes by a margin that would make any government-loving lawmaker happy. I think of Lord of the Ring’s Smeagol tapping his fingers together while his crackly and wicked voice says, “Smeagol likes more laws.”


I pondered the polling and thought about the good old Springfield Smoking Ban discussion. I used to love to ask people: “So, you are very concerned because 40,000+ people die per year from smoking-related diseases, huh? So much that you are willing to use the power of police force to create a law telling business owners they are not able to allow people to participate in a legal activity while on that business owner’s private property? Did you know that the Veterans Administration has a flier out noting the fact 38,000 people die per year, in America, from the flu? Should we make it illegal to be in public if you have the flu? 36,000 people per year die in America in car accidents – should cars be illegal?” The smoking ban advocate could never respond rationally to my questions. It’s because it’s not about health, it’s about not liking the smell of smoke or the act of smoking. Nothing more.

Now, it may be a bit different, but the “texting and driving ban” frenzy is similar in that the government-loving advocates get the non-critical thinker hyped up from all sorts of emotional pleas about how dangerous it is. I’m not saying it’s not dangerous, because it is.

I also think it’s super annoying when I’m trying to text while stopped at a stop light and the person next to me is mad and yelling at me for it; hey, I’m stopped, I’m paying attention with my phenomenal multi-tasking skills, and when it’s time to move I’ll put the convo on hold until we stop again. Duh.

You say, “Nick! Are you kidding?!” Well, yes – I am. I’m not going to say that I never have or never will text on the road again. I admit my guilt. However, right now I don’t even own a cell phone (and it’s a beautiful thing). Regardless, before you judge me for this most horrific action, let me pose an argument:

Texting while driving is taboo because it is distracting. Texting while driving is frowned upon because you are doing something other than paying attention to the road. Some want to ban texting while driving because it poses a threat to everyone on the road around the person doing it.

Really?! Have you ever had two youngsters in the back seat arguing over who gets Woody and who gets Buzz Lightyear, all the while you have your face in the rear-view mirror or neck turned in a 180 and your hands nowhere near “10 and 2″? Have you ever fidgeted with the radio while driving? Have you ever ate a good ole Whopper, mayo dripping in your lap, simultaneously trying to eat, wipe grease, and drive all because you are five minutes late to a meeting? Have you ever had a nagging passenger drive you insane to the point you can’t focus on anything but how much you want to bang your head on the steering wheel until you’re unconscious?

How are any of these things LESS distracting than texting and driving? They’re not. You won’t get me to buy they are.

So until we talk about making all these things illegal, let’s stop the irrational discussion about texting and driving. Texting and driving is dangerous, and so is having a lap dog on your lap while cruising the interstate.

I say all this tongue and cheek to keep the mood light, but the fact is that it drives me insane to witness the campaigns to make laws banning acts such as texting and driving while the same person proposing the law is the person that walks in the office everyday with grease and coffee stains on his slacks from his chomping and sipping while driving to work.

Thanks for reading – I just needed to rant, get things off my mind, shake my head while doing it, then go on with my day.

That’s all.