, Salem, MA

June 18, 2013

Don't scapegoat drivers who text

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

The Salem News is all cheers for “tough enforcement” against “texters” and all other “erratic drivers,” but in reality, they can’t help but fixate on those cellphone users. They are scapegoating cellphone users. For whatever reason, people want to rally against emergent cultural artifacts rendered possible through technology. The same thing happened with film, radio, comic books, video games, etc. They simply don’t get it, and rather than understand it, they attack it.

First, they misrepresent the facts. They throw out scary statistics, but poor journalism doesn’t negate the fact that anyone (say, someone with a cellphone) can find the numbers provided are nothing new and, in fact, indicate if not a fairly stable fatality and injury rate for nearly 20 years, then a gradual decrease in these numbers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But those “texters” are the problem.

Second, they ignore the fact that there are more cars on the road and more mileage traveled on the road, thereby statistically increasing the chance of accidents. ... Coupled with the increase of vehicles is an increase of mileage, with 3.86 trillion miles traveled in 1995 and 4.24 trillion miles in 2010. But those “texters” are the problem.

Finally, they don’t understand why we grab for our phones when in the car. The cost of living and the physical infrastructure of the country have made us car-dependent in many instances. Thus we are coerced into spending way more time, money and energy in our cars and less time and energy with our family and friends. It’s not the texters that are the problem. It’s the system we created and believe acceptable.

Reaching for our phones and connecting with others, that’s our reclamation of time and space denied to us by current culture. Good luck trying to come between human connections.

Lance Eaton