Friday, April 11, 2014

It's How You Say It

Today the State of Minnesota made a big deal of trying to prevent drivers from texting. It's OK to talk on the phone while driving, but not text. The law lumps it all under distracted driving, so they figured everybody was ignoring the law because they didn't exactly understand what qualified. Or at least that's my operating hypothesis.

The campaign included lots of publicity. I saw/heard coverage on TV and radio. I suspect younger folks are aware of coverage via social media. Cops were out in force issuing tickets as appropriate. And those big lighted freeway signs that inform us of amber alerts, traffic conditions, road closures, etc., were put to use in today's campaign as well.

Just, well, perhaps not quite as I would have chosen to do it.


Well, not exactly. Texting is perfectly legal here. Driving is too, though any given day I can point out many people on the road for whom it should be illegal to be behind the wheel. After all, there are not very  many questions of the written test covering the rules of the road, and you can pass if you only get 70% of the correct. Scary!

What is illegal here is texting while driving. I see it everywhere, people holding their smart phone up on top of the steering wheel with one hand while steering with the other. (I hope.) Used to be they were a little more subtle about it. Or perhaps they just lost that fascination with their pants while they drove by. But hey, that's distracted driving too, whatever they're looking at down there.

Now I'm not on my soapbox about distracted driving here. I admit I'm a distracted driver too. I'm distracted by hunting for the numbers or names on buildings while I'm looking for a place I've never been before. I'm distracted by many of my fellow idiots... er, fellow drivers acting like idiots out on the road. I'm distracted by changes in weather, or seasons, or wildlife along the road even if it's not the type likely to jump out in front of my car to justify the attention I give it. I get distracted by what's on the radio on occasion, or by whatever idea is percolating and building inside my own head. And let's not even begin to discuss the distractions that Dispatch throw at me frequently with every run or comment they send in text form via my Blackberry, stuff that needs to be paid attention to with no regard for whether or not I'm driving at the moment because it might mean a change in direction from where I thought I was going.

No, my soapbox is about those freeway signs and how they chose to word them. While already a bit of a grammar freak, my daughter sensitized me to even more word usage issues. (And yes, I thank her.)

There was a second sign that was all over the place this morning. Again I would have chosen to word it a little differently than they did. I would have phrased it much less ambiguously. For example, "70 people killed each year by distracted drivers." It makes the point, a tragic reminder of why the campaign is important, the consequences of ignoring the law. But the phrasing that was used is just a little more open to interpretation.


What? Each of them?

I'm way behind!

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