Texting while driving is “insanely dangerous,” Clive Thompson reminds us in Wired. “Studies have found that each time you write or read a text message, you take your eyes off the road for almost five seconds and increase your risk of collision up to 23 times. The hazard is ‘off the charts,’ says David Strayer, a University of Utah professor who has studied the practice.”
While government officials fret about how to get drivers to stop texting, Thompson proposes a different solution: Get texters to stop driving.
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.
Dramatically increasing public transit would also decrease our carbon footprint, improve local economies, and curtail drunk driving. (Plus, we’d waste less time in spiritually draining bumper-to-bumper traffic.)
Texting while driving is, in essence, a wake-up call to America. It illustrates our real, and bigger, predicament: The country is currently better suited to cars than to communication. This is completely bonkers.
By all means, we should ban texting while driving, or at least try. But we need to work urgently on making driving less necessary in the first place. Let’s get our hands off the wheel and onto the keypad–where they belong.
Considering that 37 percent of Millennials are currently unemployed or out of the workforce, shedding that car should be all the more appealing.