Ford doesn't have a better idea
See you down at the Pen today for No Fixed Address. Raising awareness and funds for the YWCA. 24 in the station Van. Come and see me!!!!
In the meantime...
This week, I think, we finally saw how pointless and ineffective our law against electronic handheld devices, while driving, really is. Back when we began the debating the relative merit of fining people who were talking or texting while negotiating Ontario's roads, I invited a number of experts on my radio show. Scientists told me about studies that showed how simple distractions could cause disaster. Politicians told me how many phone calls and emails they had received, demanding a new law. The most telling, though, was a police officer who told me they would enforce whatever law the legislature decided to pass BUT when I pressed him he admitted that he believed we already had laws on the books to cover the new electronic menace.
Careless driving, for instance, is an extremely serious offence listed in the Highway Traffic Act as “operating a motor vehicle without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for others using the highway”. That law has been around for a long time. After almost every long weekend for the past twenty years the OPP has produced a list of idiot drivers they have pulled over and ticketed for everything from shaving and putting on make up to reading newspapers and filling in tax returns. These folks have received whopping fines and points from their licences not to mention the embarrassment of having the province read about their exploits.
In 2009, though, our politicians deemed it necessary to pass section 78.1 which made it an offence to hold an electronic device while operating a motor vehicle. They passed the law, not because we needed it...they passed it because it was a “sexy” thing to do ie. they thought it would look like they were out to protect us while distracting us from all the things they were NOT doing.
Lets be honest here. If you were cruising down a major highway with a smartphone or an ipad in front of you while perusing a report from the office you could be (very rightly) pulled over and charged. If, on the other hand, that report was written on 27 sheets of paper and you were reading that while driving the same highway, at the same speed you apparently aren't doing anything illegal. Ask Toronto Mayor Rob (I'm a busy man, leave me alone) Ford.
This past week the Big Smoke's big cheese was photographed doing just that while driving on the Gardiner on the way to a press conference.
When asked about it by some snot nosed little reporter, Ford harrumphed, chided the reporter for asking asinine questions and refused to see what he might have done wrong. Even when asked by friends and colleagues to consider getting a driver, if he needed that time to bone up on his notes, he refused outright. He called it a waste of taxpayers money.
If a car had suddenly swerved into his lane or someone had darted in front of his vehicle just as his honour was checking budget figures, Rob Ford would have been just as distracted as if he'd been playing a game of Angry Birds.
Not so, said the weak kneed police spokesman charged with explaining why Ford couldn't be charged. Ford wasn't weaving or showing signs of “not being in control of his car” (and they could tell that from one still photo).
The ridiculous irony of it all is that if Ford's report had been plugged in, then he could have been hauled in. Not to mention that the person who snapped Ford's picture was the only one who was breaking the law.
Most other places in North America which have passed similar bandwagon legislation targeting handheld devices have written the laws to include not just talking and texting but also eating, shaving and farding (a great old English word for applying make up). Only in Ontario have do we have this narrow law which we didn't need to begin with and isn't widely obeyed for the most part. But at least in Ontario its legal to be farding behind the wheel...as long as you maintain control.