Today's Indianapolis Star supports State Senator Tom Wyss's effort (which I addressed last week) to require 50 hours of driver training and a cell phone ban for all drivers under age 18.
The Star's editorial has two fascinating statements. Here's the first:
As for cell phones, there's no question they are a dangerous distraction for drivers of any age. They are worse for new drivers, and banning everybody is politically impossible.
First, notice that The Star believes cell phones are dangerous for "new" drivers, but neither the phone ban nor the training hours are based on driving experience. A fifty-five-year-old woman who has never driven because her husband always did until he passed away can get licensed with no training and dial her friends, but a responsible 17-year-old can't, even on speaker.
If this law was designed to address "new" drivers (rather than being a politically-convenient, age-based generalization), the law would say that ANYBODY seeking a license must have driver training and cannot use a cell phone for a period of years after licensure.
There are young drivers who are more responsible than "seasoned" drivers, and I see this every day. In the past year alone, I have almost had six different drivers hit me, and they were ALL middle-aged adults on cell phones. (In fairness, I was on mine when I almost hit somebody three months ago).
But here's the second interesting Star quote:
More than 5,000 teens die on America's roads every year and 16-year-old drivers have 10 times the accident rate of those 30 to 59.
Where's the part about how 40% of those teen deaths are from alcohol-related crashes and that 36% of those fatalities are "roll overs." (What percent of teen accidents are even cell phone-related?!? We don't know! We might get more bang for our buck keeping our teens out of SUVs). Also, isn't it interesting that there's no reference to the accident rate of those from 18 to 29, or specifically the fact that the fatality rate is HIGHER for drivers between 21-24 than for 16-20?
You see, looking at those kind of facts would require us to grossly generalize against somebody of voting age. It might be "politically impossible" to ban everybody, but Senator Wyss won't even TRY to ban anybody who can vote.
Senator Wyss, I commend you for getting the .08 blood alcohol limit passed in Indiana, so as a courtesy, let me show you how you save lives on this one without requiring me to get all the eighteen-year-olds in the state to raise up against you for so clearly targeting them.
It's a two-part plan based on novel concepts known as "experience-based protection" and "individual responsibility."
1. Anybody who is being licensed or re-licensed after a "non-driving" period of four years or more must go through the supervised driver training.
2. Anybody who hasn't been licensed for at least three years cannot use a cell phone.
(I'll save for another day the fact that cell phone use, MINUS texting, is less dangerous than fast food restaurants that prompt people to drive with their elbows because they has supersized Cokes in their right hands, Quarter Pounders in their left hands, and french fries wedged between their left legs and their consoles).
3. Anybody, regardless of age, whose cell phone was in use immediately prior to or during an accident has a lifetime cell phone ban. The same is listed on the license with the other restrictions.
4. Anybody with three chargeable accidents in any three-year period has his/her license revoked until (s)he completes 50 hours of supervised training. I've been driving for over twenty years, and I've had two accidents chargeable to me in that time. If you cause three accidents in three years, you are a clearly an inattentive menace who needs to come off the road before you kill someone.
This simple four-point plan will save lives because it gets at the people who are REALLY the problem. But guess what? You won't do it.
It's easier to stick it to teenagers who cannot vote while the rest of us maintain our arrogance about how attentive we are as drivers, even though we just backed into the garage door or drove off from the gas station with the pump nozzle still in the car.
If you take alcohol-related accidents out of the mix, do you know who is involved in the most "attention deficit" related accidents? Old people. Not all of them, of course, because many are exceptional drivers. Just a disproportionate number that would seemingly put them under the public safety microscope for retraining at a particular age.
Let me know when Senator Wyss and The Indianapolis Star start messing with the AARP crowd. Then you'll know they're serious about public safety and not just grabbing the low-hanging fruit.