Tom Rhodes, 2/3/2012
There are about 13 million drivers in Florida averaging over 10,000 miles per year, not counting tourists. In 2010 we had only 2218 fatalities, but I'd guess we drove less because of the economy. Of those 2218 deaths 70 involved texting while driving. Florida Mileage Death Rate (the number of deaths per 100 million miles traveled) decreased to 1.25 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2010 and is the lowest since the rate has been calculated. Now look at AAA data and you see that they reported that 1/3 of all drivers admit to reading or sending a text message while driving in last 30 days and 18% admit to doing it regularly. Daniel Ruth in his January 31, 2012 editorial, called for outlawing texting while driving. What those, like him, calling for outlawing texting while driving are saying is that the .00007 million deaths associated with texting while driving outweigh the communications benefit of over 100 million of texts while driving in Florida.
Daniel Ruth notes, "Until a few years ago, motorists managed to get from Point A to Point B without having to use a texting device or a cellphone." Then he laments that people use the technology because we can. New technology generally brings some risk. What Daniel Ruthis saying is that deaths associated with the use of new technology are not worth the benefits. He has determined that what the he and ruling elite think the value of communications while driving is more important than those who actually do the communicating saying "Maybe, just maybe, if these communications involved the fate of the free world, or working out that final calculation to cure cancer, or negotiating a hostage release, an argument might be made for the necessity to drive and multitask."
Imagine if we used that logic on cars in general. What if the ruling elite determined that the time saved driving fast wasn't worth the fatalities. We could eliminate most if not all of the 2218 driving fatalities last year if they simply dictated that it was illegal to drive over 5 mph. People got from Point A to Point B without cars for thousands of years, simply because the technology exists, drivers now feel compelled to travel by car. Maybe, just maybe, if these trips involved the fate of the free world, or working out that final calculation to cure cancer, or negotiating a hostage release, an argument might be made for the necessity to drive. The benefit of time saving isn't worth anybody's life so it is just and right to limit cars to 5mph (or eliminate them all together). Maybe we should go back to having to have a person carry a light and yell for everybody to watch out ahead of every car like we did when they first were invented again.
We are not going to eliminate cars or reduce speeds to 5 mph, because we weight the benefit of the new technology with the costs. We have determined that getting somewhere quickly and easily vs. the number of deaths on the road and determined that the benefit of time saved traveling 200 Billion miles in Florida quickly outweigh the more than .002 billion associated deaths.
There were 145 crashes in Florida that involved texting while driving last year, and estimated to be over 100 million texts messages sent or read while driving over that same time period. The benefit of those communications must be considered. Just like hundreds of billions of miles driven every year are not trips involved in the fate of the free world, or working out that final calculation to cure cancer, or negotiating a hostage release, those trips have value to the individuals who took them. Should we have to justify the value for every trip we take to be allowed to travel? The use of technology in general has risk, instant communications has risks, travel by car has risks, electricity has risks, and even our first technologies like fire and the knife have risk. Imagine if deputies and police were not allowed to read or send messages on their computers while driving. The facts are clear, the risk/cost/benefit analysis shows that texting while driving will increase accidents (miniscule but an increase), but the benefit to time saved, and the value of the information transmitted, especially to police officers in route, outweigh the risks and costs.
In 2010 there 235,000 crashes in Florida only 145 involved texting while driving. How then, despite the fact that we are using new technology and texting while driving, and the numbers indicate that in 2010 we had the lowest fatality rate ever calculated are can Daniel Ruth's editorial be taken seriously? Are we gotten so risk adverse that we are willing to curtail the rights of everybody to use a technology when it can and is used hundreds of millions of times safely for every deadly accident it is associated?
Here is some source data, but you have Google, don't trust my numbers look them up yourself. http://www.flhsmv.gov/hsmvdocs/CS2010.pdf