The Freedom to Communicate – or Not?
New legislation in California goes into effect for the New Year that allows for writing, reading and sending text messages as long as this is only done using voice-activated systems. The idea is that you can send text and email messages as long as there is no need to hold or look at the device.
That bill seemed reasonable enough to me in light of the fact that you can use your phone that way in California.
I do however think that the technology for all of this still has a ways to go, but what there is now is workable with a bit of practice.
Somewhere around election time I remember hearing some discussions about this “Freedom to Communicate bill”, but it seemed fairly obvious that it would have to become the law of the land in light of the fact that the same technology is legal for phone calls.
I also found myself wondering; how does a police officer or Highway Patrol officer know that the fact you are talking to yourself in the car means that you are texting or emailing and not just using your phone. If a person is using voice-activated systems for any reason, the person is simply in the car talking. How would it be possible for a police officer to know that the talking was for texting and not to place a call or is not actually a call? Then of course there are those of us who might occasionally find ourselves talking to ourselves in the car. What would it be about texting or emailing verbally that would send a signal to an officer two cars away saying: “That person right there is not calling someone or talking to themselves, that person is verbally texting out loud.” (insert sudden siren sound).
The idea that someone was enforcing voice-activated texting in California was preposterous anyway so this really bill just eliminated a weird glitch in our state’s legal system.
Then, in a brilliant flash of “WTH” the National Safety Council rushed to our rescue (for no apparent reason).
According to the leader of this daring rescue; Janet Froetscher, president and CEO of the National Safety Council “Safe driving requires a driver’s full attention — hands on the wheel, eyes on the road and mind on the task of driving,”
At first glance, that seems like a fairly reasonable statement, but then if you think it out, it does leave one to wonder how far this will all go. For example, talking to a passenger in the car is not “hands on the wheel, eyes on the road and mind on the task of driving” is it? Should we make talking in the car illegal altogether to ensure that we are all “hands on the wheel, eyes on the road and mind on the task of driving”? After all, that would be the only possible way that a ban on voice activated texting and emailing could be enforced while voice activated use of the same cell phone for calls is legal.
I totally get what this Janet Froetscher person is trying to get at, but the only logical end to that logic is that a driver should never do anything in the car but drive because it is safer. Yes, it is safer, but it is also tremendous and preposterous overkill. However, making a law that outlaws any talking in the car, as well as outlawing any eating of fast food, doing makeup, changing the radio, rolling down the windows, turning on the heat etc. would be the only way to legislate “hands on the wheel, eyes on the road and mind on the task of driving”.
I remember (many years ago) in Drivers-Ed being told that if I needed to roll down windows or fool with the heating system I should probably pull over to a safe area, come to a complete stop and do what I needed to do and then cautiously reenter traffic. WHO DOES THAT?!?! Apparently, a hero named Janet Froetscher; rolling down the highways and byways of America “hands on the wheel, eyes on the road and mind on the task of driving”.
Meanwhile, back here on earth (I know, several people reading this inserted jokes about how California is not “back here on earth” – go ahead, laugh it up), most of us can handle a few mild distractions such as conversation with our significant others while driving no matter if the person is in the car or is heard through the speakers in the car. I suppose I can do just fine in a conversation with my phone through the speakers and mic in the car also.
I honestly think this Janet Froetscher person is wasting our time and the time of the people working in government in California’s time. I can only hope this doesn’t end up wasting our tax money in research or otherwise preparing to defend against some unenforceable voice-activated texting ban.
Janet Froetscher! STOP TRYING TO SAVE US FROM THINGS WE DO NOT NEED SAVING FROM!
She’s like a fireman that runs up to your house in the middle of the night with an ax, breaks through your door, runs into your bedroom, snatches you out of bed and whisks you off to an ambulance when there was no problem with you or your home at all. All she gets is a: “Thanks for all of your efforts and for caring, but I didn’t need saving right now sooooo: What the heck are you doing!”
In her defense, I do agree that with the current technologies available to most of us, it would be pretty hard to send a text or email without ever looking at the phone to see what I’m sending. I mean: if you thought auto-correct could cause problems, try voice-to-text software and auto-correct on an email or text that you never see before it is sent.
I think this Janet Froetscher person would do better to focus her efforts on trying to pressure phone companies to improve their voice-to-text operations in their phones, so that there is no need to glance at the screen.
On a deeper note; I wonder if it is going to also be legal to write articles using voice-to-text technology while driving? If I post an incomplete article next week, it is because I was getting pulled over for voice-to-text typing while driving and didn’t get to finish.
Reporting from my car (not necessarily: “hands on the wheel, eyes on the road and mind on the task of driving” I suppose);