Today, in Ontario, the "Hands-free device only" law is now officially being enforced. From now on you can't use devices that require your hands, while driving. Now, my understanding is that this doesn't apply to the steering wheel, but I'll have to confirm that.
I guarantee you that many cell phone chatterers will be pulled over today with an "I didn't know" defense, at the ready. Those people will probably be slapped with an additional fine for being stupid. (see comments)
I mean really, no one should be surprised by this new rule. The people who institute such laws, have certainly given us, the drivers of Ontario, more than enough notice. It's been in the discussion phase for so long, there are memos carved into cave walls.
I honestly thought the law had already been in place for months! I changed my driving behaviour a long time ago. But then, recently, I started noticing the lighted highway signs, boldly proclaiming that October 26, 2009 would be the first day of this new legislation.
Ah man! You mean, I could have been chatting, texting and emailing, while behind the wheel, all this time. I feel robbed. I'll never get that time back. Months of safe driving...for what?
I wonder if the legislators, while trying to decide whether or not to make "Hands-free only" an official law, ever sent any of their correspondence...while driving? Just an interesting thought.
I've also wondered how many rear-enders have been caused by drivers reading those giant lighted highway signs, instead of watching the road in front of them. Seems a little counter-productive to have large signs that distract you in order to tell you to stay focused.
Anyways, as of today, a person will be ticketed if found to be driving a vehicle while doing any number of other activities, simultaneously (this includes putting on lip stick and changing your clothes). Basically, it is now being declared that "driving" is not a "multi-tasking" task. Hmmm. Interesting.
Now, this isn't a new concept, folks. It's just an old concept, resurrected. You see, there was a time...long ago - probably when dinosaurs and cars travelled the highways together - that people drove with both hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road.
Yes kids...it's true. Both hands and both eyes.
Now, I know that maneuvering a 3,000 lb. hunk of metal, at high speeds, in and out of other massive speeding hunks of metal, doesn't sound like you need both hands and both eyes...but you do.
Somewhere along the line, the test for ultimate competence changed from "chew gum and walk", to "text-message and drive". As a result, the stakes have now become higher. In a previous generation, if you wanted to prove yourself worthy, the only risk was choking on some gum. Now, the risk is multi-car collisions resulting in fatalities.
Now, I am not about to plead complete innocence in this matter - I may have answered a phone call or two. But, I certainly have never counted myself among the extreme cases - driving while texting, drinking a hot coffee, watching a movie, and blow drying one's hair.
Regardless, as of today, I will abide by this new law...not simply because it's a law, but because it actually just makes sense!
I can't think of any time where I really needed to call anyone, while physically driving. And, I barely answer the phone at home, so why would I need to answer it on the road?
Isn't driving dangerous enough, as it is? Why increase my odds for an accident by choosing to add an unnecessary distraction into the mix. Is risking my life, and the lives of others, worth sending that text about the funny license plate I just read...and am now crashing into. I don't think so.
With so many brutal drivers on the road, I rewrite my Will every time I get in my car. But, then again, maybe if everyone adhered to this "law"...there wouldn't be so many "brutal" drivers.
I know there are many people out there who will respond to this legislation with the words, "Blah, blah, blah!" They feel that it's a silly rule, because they are "awesome" drivers, that are more than capable to pull off this multi-tasking stunt. To those people I offer this caution: "Blah, blah, blah" has been the famous last words of many others who have gone before you. It is often translated as "It'll never happen to me".
It's actually a shame that the "Hands-free device only" law needed to be made into a law, in the first place. But, I guess when people stop making wise judgement calls on their own, laws have to be put instituted for them.
We live in a 24-7, hyper-speed, multi-tasking, instant gratification culture. I believe that, by it's very nature, this culture has forced the law into existence. I think the demands of our culture leave most people feeling like they are too busy to waste their travel time on just "driving". And, it's really quite sad.
Some say, "Life moves too fast, you gotta keep up". I say, "Whatever!"
It's time to stop adapting to our culture and start shaping our culture. Don't try to keep up...instead, slow down the pace. The truth, "Speed kills" applies just as much to culture as it does to cars. Our culture is moving at a break-neck speed, and it's killing - literally - those who feel the need to maintain their velocity.
If we don't start touching the breaks, soon...we are done as a society. People simply aren't wired for speed. But, you can't just slam on the breaks, because that can be just as deadly. It's going to take little pumps.
This means, that although, you might not be able to slow down the hectic pace of point A and point B, you can pump the brake by slowing down between those points. If home is wild and crazy and work is stupid fast, then make the journey from home to work (or vice versa) a time to recuperate and re-energize. Put down the blackberry and turn off the phone. You can start up life again when you arrive at your destination.
I, for one, have decided that I am going to start using my travel time to...stop.
So, if you ever need to get a hold of me, try my cell phone. If I don't answer it, it's because I'm driving...or I just don't want to talk to you.
P.S. This blog entry was written while safely stopped on the side of the road.
Have a good one,