Why I Can Hardly Wait for Self-Driving Cars


Del. Richard P. Bell, R-Staunton, has identified one of the most pressing public safety issues of our time: distracted driving. But his solution bothers me. According to WCVE News, he has re-introduced a bill requiring drivers to keep both hands on the wheel at all times.

Let’s be perfectly clear: People texting and yakking on their cell phones are a menace on the highway. They’re even a pain in the butt when they’re standing still. Have you ever been stalled at an intersection because some nitwit is jabbering on their phone and has no idea the light turned green? Hey, pinhead, you may have all day to sit in traffic, but the people behind you don’t!

In the great chain of being, I rank these lowlifes somewhere between telephone robo-callers and Nigerian email spammers.

Bell has seen a lot of knuckle-headed behavior on the roads and highways out in the Shenandoah Valley, from motorists driving with dogs in their laps to people reading newspapers while driving 80 miles per hour down the highway. Hey, lady, keep your mutt in the back seat of your car where he shove his face out the window! And, dude, are you really reading while driving? Do the world a favor and get an audio subscription!

But must we always drive with both hands on the wheel? Says Bell: “Virginia State Police tell me we have a crisis on our hands. And although you can’t always attribute it to distracted driving, the evidence surrounding a lot of these cases would indicate that.” His bill offers clarity, he says, by establishing a straightforward criteria for violations.

But… but… How could I radio surf unless I could take a hand off the wheel? How could I consult my smart phone navigation app? How am I supposed to eat my Big Mac — instruct it to levitate into my mouth? I don’t think Bell has thought things all the way through.

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3 responses to “Why I Can Hardly Wait for Self-Driving Cars

  1. Let’s be clear about distracted driving – we’ve always had it but cell phone distracted driving is virulent and rampant these days compared to other forms. It’s like some sort of disease… people just can’t seem to help themselves. When Facebook or messages “dings” – it’s like a phone ringing at home – most folks ignore it!

    But if our experience with DUI is any guide – there is some hope.

    It used to be not too many years ago that drunk driving was considered more of an unfortunate accident than egregious and wanton disregard for the lives of others. Note that we did not outlaw alcohol.. in fact.. it’s more widespread than ever but DUI has declined significantly in spite of the widespread availability of alcohol (note to Steve – note that effect for “weed” also).

    ” Since 1982, drunk driving fatalities have decreased by a staggering 51% on our nation’s highways. Experts say causes may be due to multiple reasons. Among underage consumers, alcohol-related driving fatalities have decreased 80%. In 2015, the rate of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities per 100,000 population was 3.2, showing a 65% decrease since 1982, when statistics on drunk driving were first tracked nationally. Drunk driving was still responsible for nearly 1 in 3 of vehicle fatalities in 2015.

    Although drunk driving continues to be a problem, overall statistics show that great strides that have been made due to stricter laws, enforcement, and prevention programs. While many people are under the impression services such as Uber or Lyft are responsible for the drop in DUIs, a recent study revealed this is not the case. ”

    The point is that we can have the same success with cell phone use … we just need to get tough with the idiots who cannot control themselves – because, it too, is an egregious and wanton disregard for others lives. Don’t sugar-coat it.

    But there is actually an equally tough, maybe tougher problem these days with aggressive and passive-aggressive driving. It sorta goes like this – there are a lot of folks out there – when they’re not yakking on their cell phones are driving like idiot demons … not just speed, but weaving, tail-gating, cutting people off etc… and now there are others who are not longer taking it and pushing back against that behavior by driving slow in the left lane, purposing changing lanes to block others they consider to be driving too fast….etc….

    it’s actually getting so bad – that some folks now are trying to stay out of both those folks ways – away from the aggressive drivers and away from the passive-aggressive… combatants … In contrast cell phone idiots are totally equal opportunity – they simply don’t care who they piss off, it’s just not their “problem”.

    So.. will autonomous cars change this?

    in a word NO!

    Why?

    Because people with these behaviors – don’t want to behave.. It’s their way of expressing themselves and to put them in a self-driving car would totally neuter them!

    This is not that dissimilar to people’s behaviors with wanting to drive solo to/from their job – the same trip – every day – they won’t ride transit.

    The only way to change these behaviors is with heavy-duty sanctions and penalties – and incentives to do better!

  2. I get that he is attempting to do something about it, but just going for cell phone use would be better. Enforcement of slow people in the left lane is NOT occurring in Hampton Roads. That needs to be fixed by the State Police, to enforce the law the General Assembly put in. Why put in another law if the state police aren’t going to enforce it?

    • re: laws that don’t work. Laws – like a LOT of things – may not work in Version 1.0 like we thought. That does not mean we give up or that laws “don’t work”.

      We keep treating these things as if because potholes never go away that fixing them is a useless excercise! We treat crime and poverty the same way!

      It’s a continuum… not a choice between fix and not!

      For decades – one could argue that the “laws” for DUI were weak and ineffectual so ergo – the law was not fixing the problem. We STILL have drunk driving – no question – but we have less of it than before even though we have far more availability of alcohol – AND – the approach back then was to restrict alcohol… and that law – while not a total failure was also not going to be the sole answer…

      I would posit there are LOTS of answers for cell phone use beyond one law or several laws that are not “enforced”. Hells Bells, if we can use technology for autonomous cars – we can’t figure out a technology to inhibit cell phone use in the car by the driver? Here’s an easy way. The car locks down all cell phones – that cannot be used until a 6 digit code is entered into the phone… and that code changes and renews on a regular basis. Yes.. the driver can take extraordinary measures to keep up but at some point – it discourages way more than those that would defeat it and THEN you focus on the ones that did do it and you whack them with some serious sanctions including – disabling their phones except for 911 calls – for days or weeks.

      If you don’t like that – try this. If someone has an accident – the cell phone of the driver is confiscated and analyzed to see if it was in use at the time of the accident. If it was – then the injured parties can use that info to bring suit for damages… and the insurance company, by law, cannot cover it or the coverage for it very expensive and actually goes into a fund for those injured as a result of cell phone use.

      There are others… it boils down to what the will is of a majority of people and their elected to do something more – like was done for drunk driving.

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