, Salem, MA

October 24, 2012

Letter: More needed than 'don't do it'

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett’s words about the perils of texting while driving are worth reading. But I think most people will read them, say “that’s right” and continue to condemn people who text behind the wheel, all the while texting when they drive — because they really know what they’re doing.

It’s not that Blodgett’s words are meaningless; but in and of themselves, they are irrelevant. Yes, stop texting while driving is the goal — but what’s a realistic route to that goal? We are great with diagnosing in our society: Get more exercise, stop eating bad foods, don’t text while driving, stay away from drugs. But we’re horrible at helping people get there because we almost always forget that by the time we’re diagnosing a person, that person has already solidified the action as a habit. Anyone who has tried to break a habit knows that it is not a singular battle, but many battles. Battles that come at us when we are already cognitively fatigued by work, family and other demands.

In a society where the rhetoric fixates on freedom and the self, we assume that simply by identifying the goal, people will freely find their way to it. We diagnose and just assume if the person can’t achieve the goal, then they are lazy, lack gumption or don’t really want to do it. But we all know people who are not lazy but still falter in their goal achievement. Knowing the destination is irrelevant without a route that clearly demarcates where an individual is in relation to the destination.

So I applaud for Blodgett for setting goals but need to ask, where’s the map to get there? If I’m texting while driving, I need something more concrete than just “don’t do it.” I imagine that as the Essex County district attorney for nearly 10 years, you’ve had to tell a great deal of people to “don’t do it (again).” How successful is that approach?

Lance Eaton