Wednesday, February 02, 2011

My Come-Uppance on CBC about Cell Use While Driving

The sheer annoyance factor of seeing drivers on cell phones was captured satisfyingly in the earliest day's of the device in the 1990 comedy, Crazy People. Allegedly going crazy, ad-man, Emory Leeson (Dudley Moore) manifests his breakdown by jumping out of his car, wrenching a nearby driver's clunky old fashioned car phone from his grip and tossing it off the Brooklyn Bridge (you can see this most gratifying scene at the beginning of the movie's trailer). Seemed very sane to me even at the time and today, should merit some kind of good citizen commendation.

Indeed, jurisdictions all over the world have recognized the incompatibility of cell phone use and safe driving, lessons derived from countless tragedies. Stunningly,with the advent of texting, ubiquitous half-wits have added this activity to their repertoire of pastimes done while behind the wheel. In British Columbia, where I live, a law prohibiting all of this came into effect a year ago but it has been widely observed that while there may have been a brief period of abiding by the new rules, recidivism is high. And so it is estimated that in the vicinity of 50 deaths and who knows how many injuries have been caused by the now illegal activity here in BC alone. The world figure of course is in the the 1000's with texting having dramatically increased fatalities.

BC Alamanac CBC's once-excellent noon call-in show observed the one-year anniversary of the law on Tuesday (Feb 1) by bringing in RCMP Superintendant Norm Gaumont, who has been a lead spokesman on this issue in BC's Lower Mainland. . Clips were played from a riveting documentary prepared, interestingly enough, by AT & T; Mark urged listeners to call in with ideas on "what more could be done to stop" this. He then turned to Supt. Gaumont to expound more knowledgeably on the dire consequences of this incomprehensibly dumb and now illegal activity.

There followed several calls confirming full agreement among the guest, the host and the callers of this increasingly frequent and often tragic scofflawing. You could hear the veritable hand-wringing!

But what to do about it? There were mutterings of raising the fine from its current $167 although no one seemed to have much expectation that that would have a measurable positive effect on seemingly incurable and often terminal driver stupidity. Well, as unusual I held some strong opinions not only on this practice but what could be done to stop it: I called in and suggested that anyone caught in the act should have her or his phone forfeited. What with the rising infatuation for high cost iPhones and the like, this seemed not only a fitting measure to me but one likely to give even the most asinine compulsive texter, pause for thought as their stupidly-used smart phone vanished forever.

To my surprise Supt. Gaumont dismissed the idea out of hand with the incisive explanation that people including politicians wouldn't like it. Golly gee. You know just like if you caught an armed mugger and took his gun away, he wouldn't like it. Yet cell phone drivers kill roughly the same number of innocent victims annually in our province as do those with firearms.

At that point Mark hit the button for the next call without giving me a moment's opportunity to engage the good policeman on the possible logical and moral errors of his blithe and presumptuous rebuff.

So I am left only repeat here the point that it is an entirely fair consequence when one perilously misuses a device, breaking a law and mortally endangering others, to forfeit the offending item. I would further argue that laws and regulations be enacted so we could ban repeat offenders from even owning a phone for some substantial period. Lives would be saved but, oh my goodness, Supt.Gaumont doesn't think think that the moronic scofflaws would like that.

As long as the primary enforcers like Supt. Gaumont, who know all too intimately the blood-stained impacts of cell-crazy drivers, maintain such craven and occluded views, closing their minds knee-jerk to alternatives, this problem will simply grow.

By way of addendum, may I also grouse -- as is my entitlement -- about the way that Mark Forsythe, the long time and, in my view, once-excellent host is now handling calls. As mentioned, when I advanced my view and Supt. Gaumont so cavalierly tossed it aside, Mark had already cut me off which meant no chance to challenge the guest's feckless, knee-jerk reaction. This is utterly inadequate and disrespectful of authentic public discussion. It privileges the so-called expert while reducing anyone who goes to the trouble of dialing, to the short shrift of studio guests' one-liners.

Back when BC Almanac was two hours long, you usually had a chance to make at least one rebuttal point and not be left sounding like some know-nothing whose hare-brain thought is unworthy of further talk. That's the way dialogue still goes on on the national call-in show, Cross Country Check up on Sundays. To pretend that what Almanac is doing now is real public deliberation is delusional. Mark and his producers should either fight to get back the full time period - I'll help! --or altogether drop this phony phone discourse. We, the great unwashed could then just sit up straight with hands meekly folded, listening to our betters, just like the literally dumb little creatures we are being treated as.

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