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   OPINION: New push for tougher "distracted driving" laws leave us scratching our heads

January 2, 2017 -

There are laws already being enforced everywhere in the USA regarding cell phone use, but some politicians want them to be much tougher and broader, on par with drunk driving penalties and there is a push for a new set of laws that would make all electronic devices use on par with drinking alcohol.

This is loosely labeled The Driving Under The Influence of Electronics Act.

I noticed a couple of things worth commenting on in a story seen on, one of which is very concerning.

As the article mentions those who want to make it like DUI with penalties of $1000 for a first offense, and $5000 for second offense of merely putting a cell phone up to one's ear, I coudn't help but notice a problem with this picture of an officer who routinely hands out tickets, seemingly distracted with his computer that's in the middle of his vehicle. Notice the statement in the article "People look down at glowing phones in their laps....". Below is a snapshot of that part of the article found here

He appears to be driving on the highway in traffic and looking not at the road but rather at the screen of his offical police car laptop computer in which he seems to also be hitting the keys on the keyboard or swiping the mouse. Is this not just as distracting as using a cell phone, possibly worse?

And what about the glare from the screen? As sulely all of us have experienced, when looking at computer screen for any length of time in a dark room, when we look away from the screen it's difficult to see in the dark until our eyes adjust. One has to wonder if one of the distractions we are facing is that we are that we are not applying laws equally as in this image we see a state trooper looking at a glowing laptop that is off to the right, maybe as far over as being in the passenger seating area.

Roating beacon style emergency vehicle light image by Vwwatcher at the German language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Distractions in driving are getting worse not better

Have you noticed how today we are seeing emergency vehicles now flashing LED lights that are so incredibly bright they are blinding?

Image of German emergency vehicles with super bright LED strobe beacons by de:Benutzer:Rettungssani - Un ambulance Ambulance (de:Rettungswagen) et la voiture d'un physicien d'urgence (de:Notarzteinsatzfahrzeug) du arrondissement germanique de Gutersloh, qui a active leurs lumieres bleus., CC BY-SA 3.0

These are a distraction. They are like a strobe light in a discoteque. They make it harder to focus on the road. They are so bright they light up every single drop of rain on a windshield making it much harder to see the road and vehicles. Take a look (above) at this non-animated still image of these newer vehicles with these super bright LED beacons that are supposedly safer. We can see the distortions in this mere photo, notice the clouding effect, this is much worse when there is rain on a windshield, but this presents the problem with these glaring lighting which has been adopted as a safety measure around the world.

 Add to this the hypnotizing, annoying, blinding, and even mild-seizure inducing strobe effects of these kinds of bright pulses of light and we have a problem with distractions. Sometimes we can't see what's going on at all due to this lighting which sometimes mimicks trying to see your audience while on stage and the spotlight is directly in your eye. It can be difficult to see where exactly the area we need to avoid is because these lights are making it HARDER TO SEE CLEARLY.

One has to question what is driving these supposed improvements in safety

In Desert Hot Springs, California some years back, a man was run over by a police vehicle on a somewhat dark main road. The comments about it on blog sites tended to blame the pedestrian for walking not at a crosswalk at a traffic light, yet it is legal for a pedestrian to walk across a road when far enough away from a traffic signal and while at an intersection. The police cruiser had just turned down Palm Drive going south from Pierson responding to a call traveling at high speed. There was no official report about what I am about to say but I wondered if the computer screen in the car was distracting.

It was dark outside the vehicle being around 9:45 pm I believe, and the computer screens I have seen them use have a white or light color background.

I am very concerned about this push against cell phone use in cars while at the same time there is no call for reigning in the same kinds of distractions used by those who are in law enforcement and emergency services.

Certainly it's something that should be looked at.

Are we simply being sold "new and improved" and "as seen on TV"?

The financial incentive for companies that profit from the sale of these LED beacons, and general concept that we all sometimes fall into of getting "the latest new toy" is also something to be considered. Are police departments who are all employing real human beings who are generally very concerned about safety, also enjoying buying these new toys?

That in itself is not a crime of course, and most certainly they are concerned about adopting these as another measure to protect the public, however, the presentations made by those offering these new devices, of how these make their communities safer are impressive and could be viewed as sales pitches. Thus, departments keep choosing to upgrade to these newer devices, at considerable taxpayer cost, yet might we question if these really are an improvement?

They can be seen better much further away, which can alert a driver even many miles ahead of time of an accident or incident and to slow down, but that isn't necessarily better. Do we really need to be forewarned so many miles ahead? As drivers get closer to these vehicles with LED beacons the distraction, refraction, and distortion of view factors become quite apparent.


Now playing "the devil's advocate" might be necessary too

In regards to the example I brought up of a man in Desert Hot Springs who was run over and killed by a police vehicle, due diligence would suggest we find out if these newer LED beacons were on this police vehicle. It is possible that the ones that were on the vehicle were the older non LED beacons, and had that vehicle been equipped with the newer massively bright LED beacons, the man might be alive today. He more than likely would have seen the intense bright strobing from quite the distance and not crossed the road.

The whole matter is a delicate one. Those in charge of providing us safer driving experiences might have done their homework and gotten an A+ or B- in their final grade, and due to these upgrades and changes, we might encounter another issue, people might start wearing sunglasses at night to protect their eyes from these strobes as they approach them. It also could spur on yet another new product for us to buy to make our lives better, special "beaconglasses" that cut the LED strobe glare down so it's easier to see while driving past an emergency vehicle situation.

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