Is public transit the solution to texting while driving?
We can all agree that texting while driving is becoming a problem on the roads these days. So far, lawmakers have been focusing on banning drivers from exchanging text messages. But what if the issue wasn’t so much texting, but driving?
In a recent Wired article, blog columnist Clive Thompson had an interesting thought. He figured laws would not stop young people from texting while driving. After all, in 5 years, Americans went from sending an average of 2 billion text messages to an astounding 110 billion per month. So if people are not stopping their texting habits, maybe the focus should be on their transportation mode.
Thompson said that in Japan or Europe, where public transit is more popular and adapted than in North American, we haven’t heard of a texting while driving crisis. According to him, most US cities and suburbs offer an inadequate public transit service, which translates into more cars on the road. He cites Rich Ling, an Ohio-born sociologist now working in Denmark, who makes a comparison between the urge of driving for American teenagers versus Europeans.
“My daughter is 18, and she’s only sort of starting to think about driving,” says Ling. “As a result, texting while driving isn’t as big a deal.”
This contrasts with the average American life. How many of us wanted so badly to get our driver’s license and borrow our parents’ car? Or got a part-time job to save money for a first car? In our culture, driving seems to be a synonym for freedom.
In the end, the issue of texting while driving may be cultural. The problem isn’t so much texting than the fact that people need, or insist on taking their car for every single activity, whether it means driving to work, the supermarket, or to meet up with friends. Changing people’s mind may be the solution to keep the roads safer. Cell phones may still be a distraction for pedestrians or public transit users, but it would still be far less dangerous than texting while driving our own car.
Source: Clive Thompson, Park the Car, Take the Bus, Wired magazine, March 18, 2010