Despite a lot of predictable grumbling, the Columbus Police Department’s intensified focus on distracted driving is, in our opinion, an invaluable contribution to public safety. It’s quite possibly a life-saving one, although the number of lives saved and injuries prevented because of accidents that didn’t happen due to police intervention is impossible to quantify. You can’t, as the truism goes, prove a negative.
We hope those efforts continue. The devastating consequences of distracted driving are not hypothetical, especially when it comes to such outrageously dangerous practices as texting, emailing or reading while operating a moving vehicle, too often a vehicle moving at high speed. Many safety experts say texting at the wheel is deadlier than drunk driving.
The key word above is “moving” — which is why it is also our opinion that the change in state law proposed by Rep. John Pezold, R-Columbus, is not an unreasonable one.
As reported in Chuck Williams’ Wednesday story, Georgia law makes it illegal to text or email while in control of a motor vehicle — including while that vehicle is stopped at a traffic signal or stop sign.
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The rationale for that last part of the law is sound, and in a sense has been around since long before cell phones were virtually universal: Every driver has had the experience of being behind another driver who, when the light turned green, just sat there dithering with something on the seat, or looking in the glove compartment, or fiddling with the car stereo, or reading a map, or just plain woolgathering.
The most common contemporary version of the above, of course, is a driver distracted by fiddling with an electronic device, be it a smartphone, a tablet or an iPod.
But the driver doing those things while stopped at a red light isn’t necessarily distracted, which is why Pezold wants to change that part of the law. He also raised, if rhetorically, a legitimate question about how the law should be altered. When the light changes, “what’s the threshold? Is it 1.5 second, 2.5, seconds, 3.5 seconds?”
We won’t presume to answer that question except to say there needs to be one.
“It’s pretty simple,” Pezold said, “if the vehicle is not moving you should not be guilty of distracted driving.”
To which we would add this corollary: If the vehicle ought to be moving and isn’t, you should be.
It’s not shilling for a local interest to observe that the use of Tiki torches by a bunch of racist goons in Charlottesville is not an indictment of the W.C. Bradley Co.
Regardless of the company’s understandable response to possible public image ramifications, we’re as confident after the Virginia clash that one of this city’s oldest corporate entities is not affiliated with neo-Nazi skinheads as we were before.
We’re also reasonably certain that white supremacists wearing jeans did not represent Levis, Lee or Wrangler.