So ... who is going to wimp out next?
First, the Ohio legislature decides the penalty for typing text messages while piloting a two-ton hunk of metal should be the equivalent of a seat-belt violation — a secondary offense, enforceable only if the driver has committed some other violation.
Now the city of Akron is talking about doing the same thing.
Are you kidding me?
What is it about this equation that people don’t understand?
I suggest they do their homework. They need to take a good look at the research, which I did last year when the state was proposing its own worthless legislation.
As I noted then, driving while texting — DWT — is more dangerous than driving after pounding down a six-pack of beer.
A texting driver is 23 times more likely to get into a crash than a nontexting driver, according to the highly respected Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.
That number is not some wild stab from a half-baked lab test. It comes from multiple, large-scale, long-term, naturalistic driving studies that make use of sophisticated cameras and instrumentation placed in the drivers’ own cars.
But you don’t have to be a college professor to figure out why texting is so dangerous. All you need is middle-school math.
The average length of time people take their eyes off the road while texting is five seconds. If you’re traveling 65 miles per hour, in five seconds you cover more than 1½ football fields.
Even if your speedometer only reads 25, in five seconds you travel 185 feet — a long, long way in city traffic.
Or in a school zone.
Here’s what a secondary enforcement law buys us in terms of safety: absolutely nothing. The vast majority of tickets will be given out in conjunction with citations for either “assured clear distance” or “failure to control.”
In other words, unless a driver is younger than 18, tickets will be written only after some innocent person — you, me, someone we know and love — is mangled or killed by a car or truck under the control of someone who wasn’t paying attention for five seconds.
The biggest hurdle to passing effective legislation in Akron is the local chapter of the NAACP, which apparently believes this is a sinister plot to harass minorities. As if a cop couldn’t already pull somebody over for any number of trivial or fabricated offenses.
Does the NAACP, or the local African-American ministers who have taken the same stance, truly believe that the handful of white police officers who enjoy picking on minorities need something else to enable that disgraceful behavior?
If the NAACP is opposed to this, it should oppose any other motor-vehicle law that could — in theory — be used against minorities.
Some say this whole issue is much ado about nothing because a primary law would be hard to enforce. They say a texting driver would simply lower his phone when a cop approached.
Rubbish. Most of the texters I observe in Akron wouldn’t notice what was going on around them if Jennifer Lawrence stumbled over a curb in a billowing evening gown with Seth MacFarlane tap-dancing in a tuxedo right behind her.
If there’s any problem at all with Akron passing a primary-offense law, it’s that somebody driving into the city from Fairlawn, Tallmadge, Cuyahoga Falls or anywhere else that abuts the city suddenly would encounter a different set of rules.
That would not have a been a problem until last year, when the new state law trumped county law.
In 2009, Summit County Council used its collective head and did what 36 states have done: made texting a primary violation for any driver of any age.
Akron City Council needs to keep things in perspective and follow that lead.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.