In the most recent issue of Wired magazine, columnist Clive Thompson makes a dramatic claim about anti-texting laws like the one Seattle area Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-36) is ushering through the state legislature this year.
Thompson argues that the problem of texting-while-driving isn't about texting—it's about driving.
I’m not convinced the bans will work, particularly among young people. Why? Because texting is rapidly becoming their default means of connecting with one another, on a constant, pinging basis. From 2003 to 2008, the number of texts sent monthly by Americans surged from 2 billion to 110 billion. The urge to connect is primal, and even if you ban texting in the car, teens will try to get away with it.
So what can we do? We should change our focus to the other side of the equation and curtail not the texting but the driving. This may sound a bit facetious, but I’m serious. When we worry about driving and texting, we assume that the most important thing the person is doing is piloting the car. But what if the most important thing they’re doing is texting? How do we free them up so they can text without needing to worry about driving?
The answer, of course, is public transit. In many parts of the world where texting has become ingrained in daily life — like Japan and Europe — public transit is so plentiful that there hasn’t been a major texting-while-driving crisis. You don’t endanger anyone’s life while quietly tapping out messages during your train ride to work in Tokyo or Berlin.
I'm not sure what the practical approach to Thompson's take is, but it's a canny observation.