Memo to the Riley County Law Board on the issue of those hypothetical cops with binoculars…
Go for it.
The reference here is to a tongue-in-cheek comment offered up Monday by board member Wynn Butler. The matter being discussed was how rigorously law enforcement should be making sure that drivers are wearing seatbelts.
Butler presumably was suggesting that the RCPD might be wasting money and acting a bit intrusive in its hunt for seatbelt offenders — and while they’re at it, tracking down scofflaws who might be making a quick cell-phone call.
Let’s be fair and assume Butler was merely joking about county expense when he asked if cops should be posted around the area with binoculars, hoping to catch the occasional driver chatting on his or her mobile device.
Because the truth is that, yeah, it might not be a bad idea at all.
Now that pretty much everyone and his dog has a cell phone, the temptation to use them while operating a motor vehicle is overwhelming.
I speak as a victim here.
Fortunately, I’m still in one piece and my car sustained only minor damage when a teen-age girl — busy chatting up a pal on her cell — failed to notice a stop light and rear-ended me going about 15-20 miles per hour.
That may not sound exactly like drag racing, but I can tell you that a full-size car can do plenty of damage — even at a low cruising speed.
It certainly rattled my cage. Trust me on that.
For one thing, most drivers who have stopped at a light are basically relaxed. You’re not expecting to take a sudden jolt that snaps your head, neck and spine forward and then back —all quite violently.
Was it a bloody mess?
Was it a damn nuisance and pretty doggone unpleasant?
Yes, it was.
And the accident was ENTIRELY down to an adolescent yakking away to a pal when she should have been keeping her mind on the road.
Frankly, I think penalties for driving while using any sort of mobile device — for talking, texting, doing Sudoku puzzles, whatever — should be increased.
Our legal system is rigged to throw the book at drunk drivers (and fair enough for that), but someone at the wheel who is deep in conversation or tapping out a phone number can be every bit as dangerous.
Simple equation: If whatever you’re doing while operating a motor vehicle presents a clear and present danger to others, you should be punished.
With some gusto.
Otherwise, where’s the deterrent?
Just for a second, forget about my own little fender-bender and imagine an accident that kills or paralyzes someone — all because another driver was peering at a text. Or ringing a pal to find out what time they’re supposed to meet.
These things aren’t hypothetical, not anymore. They happen every day, and families are left to grieve.
The law and its consequences have to keep up with technology.
I suspect Butler certainly would agree if he got T-boned by a kid talking to his girlfriend.
If the RCPD wants to post officers with binoculars around the county to spot cell-phone offenders, bless ‘em.
I’ll pay my share.
Steve Cameron is executive of The Mercury. Follow Steve on Twitter: @stevecameron100.