Mass. texting ban starts this week. Will it work?

I was at a busy intersection last Friday getting the gas in my car filled up. Believe it or not, in our overly busy society where people pride themselves on independence and convenience, there are still a few old-fashioned “full service” gas stations in Massachusetts. Two exist in my home town, in fact. I enjoy the throw back to a different time and despite rumors to the contrary the gas is not more expensive at these places.

Looking out my window, I couldn’t help notice how many people zipping down the street in their cars either had a cell phone glued to their ear or were peering down at their cell phone screen. One gal was even reading a newspaper.  Low tech but took her eyes off the road none the less, and perhaps more if you take into account the blocking of the windshield from the paper during the page turn.

The buzz in Massachusetts this September has been the driving text ban going into effect September 30, 2010. It’s prime coverage on the TV news, newspapers and on bill boards on major highways.

Sitting in my car last week waiting, about 60% of the cars that passed had adult drivers with a cell phone in hand. I couldn’t tell for sure what they were doing but they were obviously holding a phone. I only saw a couple teen drivers and they had both hands on the wheel. And, of course, there was newspaper lady. In the past, though, I’ve seen people read books, maps, shave and even put on make-up.

This law is a step in the right direction but I wonder how it will be enforced since adults are allowed to talk on the phone and texting and dialing are the same activity. I also wonder how this will help curtail the biggest issue we face: adult distracted drivers in general who are the ones modeling the behavior for our teens.

Good to have stiff penalties for out teen drivers. As teens, that does speak to them and reinforce important messages.

However, the issue on our roads isn’t with the teens. If you want to see the issue, look in the mirror: it’s with us – the adults.

The other issue we have to be realistic is more sobering. Studies out this week show that these laws not only don’t work they make distraction behind the wheel worse by encouraging people to hide the cell phone from police – in their laps.

Skeptical about this new law? You bet. We’re a society who can’t even stop talking while in line at Starbucks. We’re a society who fights wearing seat belts and refuses to wear bike helmets to set a good example for our kids. So, forgive me that I’m just not buying that we, the adults, can set the good example here. I think the minority will try but we need a majority of willing participants here to keep our roads safe.

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