April 16, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Driving & Phones: A Digital DWI?:

Which is potentially more dangerous: Driving after three vodka tonics, driving with a small dog sitting in your lap… or looking down at your phone to see if Biffy and Skeeter are going to show up at the party tonight? Take your time, since I personally see trouble with all of these.

We correctly make an assumption about driving after drinking, which is that it’s consistently and always a bad idea.

But, we let ourselves off the hook on the other two since our small dog Princess is really very well-behaved in the front seat of a car and, getting that info on Biffy and Skeeter?

Well, come on, man… that’s just plain essential. That’s urgent with a capital “UR!”

I’m not certain we can obtain the data we need about the depth of the problem of driving and texting/phone use, since there are complications getting those numbers that you don’t have with getting someone to blow a Breathalyzer.

Yet I invite anyone to walk with me and my dog on any given morning on 4th Street, so that we can count the number of drivers that roll through four-way stop intersections and nearly flatten us… because they are looking down into their life-giving, soul stealing, character-building, meaningful, sexy, wacky cat photo-providing, and (I now believe) addictive and intoxicating mobile phone.

If there are laws against driving while “intoxicated,” then is anyone ready to argue that those obsessed with their phones are not in fact “intoxicated” by them?

If constantly looking away from conversation with your “best friends” so that you can connect with your other “best” friends on your phone isn’t some form of at least mild addiction, what is?

I don’t expect the Santa Monica Police Department to back up my views here, but I will note that April is, in effect, SMPD crackdown on cell use while driving… month. In April, SMPD will focus on drivers who are talking or texting on mobile phones.

You were warned, people. They are looking specifically at what you do in your car with your phone all this month.

Why? Because every month SMPD focuses on different driving behaviors that are the primary causes for traffic collisions. You know, collisions. Where people get injured or killed.

We’re past the point of casual conversation about drivers more engaged in their phones than their driving.

Still, because no actual chemical substances are involved, we’re not yet having near enough conversation about whether this behavior constitutes a form of addiction.

Interesting that we would have piles of books and hours of TED talks about whether video games are bad for our children, and yet not engage in dialogue about whether adults have developed behaviors with their phones that might be equally troubling.

Because we like what we like. Recently, two states let their citizens vote on the matter of more deeply integrating marijuana into their lives.

Looking at such things as traffic deaths, distractions and drug problems in schools, absenteeism in the workplace, safety issues on construction sites, the knowledge that at least in some cases marijuana is used by those who later find something with a stronger kick… the proud citizens of two states voted to make marijuana more readily available. These votes involved a generation that still had memories of outlawing the sale of “airplane glue” used to make plastic models. But never mind all that; somebody wanted more and better pot and now they’re getting it.

I bring these things up not to suggest for a moment that criminalizing behavior always succeeds in modifying behavior. It does not. Prohibition between 1920 and 1933 was a failure and some might say a disaster when you throw in the uptick in crime that resulted.

The larger point is, we want these phones and we appear willing at the current moment to risk fines and endangering others in order to play with them.

But now you’re talking about discipline and restraint and one’s getting in touch with their weaknesses. If you watch even half an hour of television right now, you’ll see that none of the telecoms is selling you less phone service right now or encouraging less distraction with incoming data and texts.

Less preoccupation that could lead to a car accident; less obsessive behavior that leads to one morning where you run over me and my dog at a four-way stop corner or less humiliation from presenting yourself to the world as so feeble that you can’t stop checking your toys when you are operating a two ton vehicle.

Okay, fine. Let the SMPD put you touch with how you’re handling your, uh, fixation with your phone. They’re professionals; I’m just some dude writing about all of it.

in Opinion
Related Posts

SM.a.r.t. Column: Santa Monica Needs Responsible Urban and Architectural Design

April 14, 2024

April 14, 2024

[SMa.r.t. note: Eight years ago, our highly esteemed and recently-passed colleague Ron Goldman documented his thoughts on the need for...

SM.a.r.t. Column: BLINK NOW!

April 7, 2024

April 7, 2024

Nine years ago, I wrote a column for SMa.r.t. titled SANTA MONICA: BEACH TOWN OR ‘DINGBAT’ CITY? (https://smdp.com/2015/05/09/santa-monica-beach-town-dingbat-city/)Here is the...

SM.a.r.t Column: ARB Courage (Part 2 of 2)

March 31, 2024

March 31, 2024

Last week we discussed the numerous flaws of the Gelson’s project as a perfect example of what not to do...

ARB Courage (Part 1 of 2)

March 24, 2024

March 24, 2024

On March 4, 2024, your ARB (Architectural Review Board) ruled in favor of the 521-unit Gelson’s Project at Ocean Park...

SM.a.r.t Column: Can California ARBs Balance Affordable Housing with Community Character in the Face of New Housing Laws?

March 17, 2024

March 17, 2024

By suggestion, I attended the March 4th ARB (Architectural Review Board) meeting that addressed the Gelson Lincoln Boulevard Project.  After...

S.M.a.r.t Column: On the Need for Safety

March 10, 2024

March 10, 2024

Earlier this week, in the dark pre-dawn hours, a pair of thugs covered in masks and hoodies burst into the...

Film Review: The Oscar Landscape 2024

March 7, 2024

March 7, 2024

FILM REVIEWTHE OSCAR LANDSCAPE 2024A Look at the Choices – Academy Awards – March 10, 2024, at 5:00 p.m. on...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Five Saving Historic Santa Monica

March 3, 2024

March 3, 2024

Our beloved City is surrounded by many threats, from sea level rise to homelessness, to housing affordability, to cancerous overdevelopment,...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Gelson’s Looms Large

February 22, 2024

February 22, 2024

Our guest column this week is by SMCLC (the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City). SMCLC is a well-established...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Top Toady Town

February 18, 2024

February 18, 2024

Throughout history, from the ancient Romans and Assyrians to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, siege warfare has served as an...

S.M.a.r.t Column: The Sunset of Home Ownership

February 11, 2024

February 11, 2024

We are watching the sunset of our historical and cultural American dream of home ownership as we now are crossing...

SMa.r.t. Column: B(U)Y RIGHT

February 4, 2024

February 4, 2024

“By Right” state housing laws that give developers, in certain projects, the ability to ignore codes ‘by right.’ Well, that...

S.M.a.r.t  Column: Serf City

January 28, 2024

January 28, 2024

Homelessness is a problem in California, and nowhere is this more evident than in our fair city, where the unhoused...

S.M.a.r.t  Column: Bond Fatigue

January 22, 2024

January 22, 2024

Last week’s SMart article,  described two critical problems faced by our Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD): the declining...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Peace on Earth

December 27, 2023

December 27, 2023

We are all, by now, saturated with jingles, holiday cards, “ho ho ho’s,” countless commercial advertisements, and exhortations to feel...