Brace Yourself For Laws Banning Laptop Use While Driving

from the just-wait dept

As legislators continue their pointless attempts to ban driving distractions one by one, rather than focusing on the underlying problem of unsafe and unintelligent drivers, hopefully at some point they'll realize that they can keep making laws all they want, but there's an infinite number of things to pull a driver's attention away from what they're doing. These sorts of laws and proposals typically follow some sort of incident, such as the recent proposal by a New York lawmaker to ban talking on a phone or listening to an iPod while crossing the street after two people got killed when they were crossing a street with headphones in. Keeping that in mind, don't be surprised when lawmakers start proposing laws to ban the use of laptops while driving, following a California accident that killed a man (who happened to be a computer tutor), and police think he might have been using a laptop while driving. The guy's Honda Accord went left of center, and hit an oncoming Hummer head-on. Investigators found his laptop plugged in to the cigarette lighter and still on, with some LED on it lit up as well. While they suspect he was using the laptop at the time of the crash, it is of course possible that he was simply charging it. But, most reasonable people would probably think that using a laptop while driving a car isn't a particularly safe thing to do -- just like plenty of other activities lawmakers have targeted with specific laws. These single-focus laws miss the point: that there are all sorts of activities that make driving less safe. The best way forward isn't to try and come up with laws banning each and every one, but rather to tackle the issue of unsafe driving as a whole.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Matt Bennett, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 8:40am

    Aw, hell man, I play WOW while driving, ain't nothing to it. Sometimes I swerve alittle during a bad pull, though.

     

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  2.  
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    David Griffin (profile), Feb 28th, 2007 @ 8:44am

    Binning all sorta stuff

    What they are clearly still skirting around is the fact that research shows that even a hands free cell is still a distraction. But if you try and ban them the celltelcos will revolt.

    If you draw up a hit list in order of "how distractable and how common" you'd have to outlaw two small children in the back seat straight away.

    Even the "don't legislate for stupidity" discussion aside, these laws will never really be applied logically.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 8:48am

    Laptop?

    Who uses a laptop while driving? That should be banned! Along with talking on your phone, eating, smoking, listening to music, looking at women in short skirts on the street, and breathing. I know I get distracted by breathing and driving all the time!

     

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  4.  
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    GQ, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 9:02am

    Laptop?

    Can you say Darwin Awards?

    I really don't think the government should be regulating what few population control measures we have left!

     

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  5.  
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    Matt Bennett, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 9:05am

    I agree with GQ. There is simply not enough Natural Selection in today's society.

     

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  6.  
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    MrBill, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 9:11am

    We're surrounded by Morons...

    This is ridiculous. How much taxpayer time and money si being wasted by these moronic lawmakers trying to ban everything under the sun? Welcome to the nanny state. Don't we already have laws for negligent and reckless driving? Are those laws so vague that we need to outlaw individual things? It's getting to the point where you're going to need a handbook outlining the things you can and cannot do as you drive from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and state to state.

    I see a market for MS or another company to add driving laws to it's trip planning software. This way you'll know when you're entering a city, county or state that doesn't allow smoking, eating, passengers, talking on the phone (headset or otherwise) while driving in your car.

    Maybe I should patent that idea. :)

     

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  7.  
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    Reverend Davidius, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 9:13am

    Natural Selection

    In agreeance with GQ there, I highly recomend that you watch Idiocracy. Good movie about what laws like that might actually do to the population.

     

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  8.  
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    Casper, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 9:19am

    (From the point of view of someone commuting 100 miles a day or more and participates in driving schools and race events)

    Most of these people can't drive, distracted or not. I am going to have to agree that Natural Selection needs to screen out some of these people. People think they are all of equal ability and should be able to drive anything they want. This leads people to think that if they wreck their SUV, it’s the manufactures fault for the blind spots…. Not the drivers fault for being incapable of navigating their vehicle.

    Here's the plan, we make new licenses with degrees of difficulty assigned to each. If you want to attain a higher level of license, you must pass a more difficult test and prove a higher level of competency. This would include knowing your vehicles limits (since idiots seem to think an SUV/Truck should be able to travel 80MPH+ when the tires are rated at 80…). People with a higher level licenses who have proven to be better drivers get more leniency on judgment call tickets such as basic rule for weather conditions, what constitutes a safe speed for an area, etc. If you fail to maintain a high level or driving ability, your license gets demoted.

     

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  9.  
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    James, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 9:23am

    Actually...

    ... I'd much rather see them spend passing laws that legislate who can and who cannot breed. Maybe a cleansing of the gene pool could illeviate many other problems, the least of which is, "driving while stupid" :-p

     

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    Pope Darren, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 9:31am

    Re: Natural Selection

    Good Call Rev. But be aware that that movie is not about the future, it's a satire of our society today. Even I have caught myself silently making fun of people that speak properly or use big words consistently.

    Reagan (an actor) was president, Schwarzenegger (a bad actor/body builder) is governor, and Ex-governor/wrestler Ventura will be teaching at HARVARD. The future is now.

    Mike Judge is a genius; the irony of Judge making fun of his clientele alone is what makes the movie so funny. ... I don't think he expected anyone to notice.

     

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    shane, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 9:34am

    odd

    I don't understand this, most police officers have laptops open all the time while they patrol.
    where does the significant difference come in different types of computers?
    will all computers will be prohibited? Slate tablets, laptops? how about gps navigators with bluetooth and mp3 players integrated? they are all computers they just don't all run windows or osx... they all use os of some kind. In a congress that barely understands technology it might end up being amusing.
    this is all on top of the things that most everybody has covered till i posted.

     

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  12.  
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    Alex Austin (profile), Feb 28th, 2007 @ 9:36am

    Re: By Casper

    Very nice idea. I figured that maybe they should just outlaw speeding tickets and only issue reckless driving tickets, but I think the multi-level license is a good idea. The problem is, it's very easy to drive well for a test then go out and be stupid on the road. Same with vice versa. (I failed my first driving test because the tester's demeanor scared me enough that my foot was shaking on the clutch pedal and I killed the car a few times because of it)

     

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    LOL, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 9:37am

    JUST BAN DRIVING, CROSSING THE STREETS,...BAN WORKING MORE THAN A MILE AWAY FROM HOME!!!

     

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  14.  
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    Adam, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 9:49am

    So what about those who use laptops as GPS devices? Will this extend to built-in navigation systems and portable GPS units? Stupid... They should ban stupidity, er... but then they'd have to fire/jail 99% of the govt...

    A.

     

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  15.  
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    MissingFrame, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 9:49am

    The root of the problem

    The root of the problem is not the distractions, it's the fact that so many drivers think that they are OK driving while doing these things.

    Driving is boring thanks to all the safety and automatic controls cars have, and rush hour traffic keeps speeds to less than 20 MPH.

    Force people to drive Honda 250 motorcycles around in India-like traffic and nobody would THINK about pulling out their laptop.

     

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  16.  
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    Trouble Maker, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 9:50am

    two cents worth

    Legislators continue their pointless attempts at distracting the public with moronic issues, they need to ban distractions from legislation and focus on the underlying problem... Driving is a Privilege not a Right.

    I say, let gasoline be $5.00 a gallon, let cars cost 100 times the current cost, let insurance be as expensive as a small Caribbean island.

    Oh, hell…Let’s just hold people responsible for their actions.

    Self Responsibility, pass a law on that.

     

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  17.  
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    Casper, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 9:54am

    Responsibility...

    These people won't even take responsibility for their children (which they created), why would they take responsibility for themselves?

     

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  18.  
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    Overcast, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 10:03am

    LOL, they can make law after law after law.

    Distracted driving's already against the law.

    What's the issue with enforcing it right now? Oh maybe not enough manpower to enforce it, because most governments squander all the tax dollars and can't afford to pay police officers a decent salary and/or have enough of them?

    So - what good is a new law going to do, when you can't enforce the ones on the books now?

    I guess eventually, we'll all be criminals, well according to the 'law' anyway.

     

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  19.  
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    Old Guy, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 10:04am

    Re: two cents worth

    Your comments might make sense if all cities were blessed with the rapid transit systems like those of NY, DC and Chicago. I investigated using rapid transit to get to work, it turns a 20 minute drive into a 3 hour, 2 transfer ride (oh yeah, I work a 2nd shift, so I can't get home anyway) So while the sentiment is laudable, the practicality just isn't there. "Oh, hell…Let’s just hold people responsible for their actions. " Absofragginlutely, but it'll never happen.

     

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  20.  
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    CA Resident, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 10:13am

    Already Illegal...

    Hate to break it to you guys, but in the state of California, using a laptop in the front seat is ALREADY illegal. Feel free to look up the California Vehicle Code section 27602 which states:

    27602. (a) A person may not drive a motor vehicle if a television receiver, a video monitor, or a television or video screen, or any other, similar means of visually displaying a television broadcast or video signal that produces entertainment or business applications,
    is operating and is located in the motor vehicle at any point forward of the back of the driver's seat, or is operating and visible to the driver while driving the motor vehicle.

    (b) Subdivision (a) does not apply to the following equipment when installed in a vehicle:
    (1) A vehicle information display.
    (2) A global positioning display.
    (3) A mapping display.
    (4) A visual display used to enhance or supplement the driver's view forward, behind, or to the sides of a motor vehicle for the purpose of maneuvering the vehicle.
    (5) A television receiver, video monitor, television or video
    screen, or any other, similar means of visually displaying a
    television broadcast or video signal, if that equipment has an
    interlock device that, when the motor vehicle is driven, disables the equipment for all uses except as a visual display as described in paragraphs (1) to (4), inclusive.
    (6) A mobile digital terminal installed in a vehicle owned or
    operated by an electrical corporation, as defined in Section 218 of the Public Utilities Code, a local publicly owned electric utility, as defined in Section 9604 of that code, a gas corporation, as defined in Section 222 of that code, or a telephone corporation, as defined in Section 234 of that code, if the mobile digital terminal is fitted with an opaque covering that does not allow the driver toview any part of the display while driving, even though the terminal may be operating.
    (c) Subdivision (a) does not apply to a mobile digital terminal installed in an authorized emergency vehicle or to a motor vehicle providing emergency road service or roadside assistance.
    (d) Subdivision (a) does not apply to a mobile digital terminal installed in a vehicle owned or operated by an electrical corporation, as defined in Section 218 of the Public Utilities Code, a local publicly owned electric utility, as defined in Section 9604 of that code, a gas corporation, as defined in Section 222 of that code, or a telephone corporation, as defined in Section 234 of that code, when the vehicle is deployed in an emergency to respond to an interruption or impending interruption of electrical, natural gas, or telephone service.

    ------------------

    When the bill first came out, the CHP cracked down on real estate agents and others who lived with their laptop on their front seat, now it is primarily used to stop people from installing in dash dvd players and such.

     

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  21.  
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    Jason, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 10:14am

    Police?

    So will this ban span to the police. I have seen several using thier laptops while driving down major roads.

    I really wish stupidity was painful!!! if not deadly!

     

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  22.  
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    Drew, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 10:29am

    "The best way forward isn't to try and come up with laws banning each and every one, but rather to tackle the issue of unsafe driving as a whole."

    Yeah? And how would they accomplish that? I agree that creating laws to protect the stupid from themselves is bullshit but how else do you protect the rest of us from the stupid? How about you propose an alternative instead of simply saying "this is ridiculous and they should tackle THIS issue" but not providing any suggestions.

    Last time I checked, driving tests don't include cell phones, laptops, food, make-up, newspapers, radios, ipods, etc as part of the approved list of distractions to test for.

    As a result, once the license is in-hand people are largely free to do whatever they want and it is up to the LAWS to control their actions. If there is no law controlling an activity then the police can't enforce it. If it isn't illegal to use a laptop while driving then the only way to combat it is with "reckless driving" which is a good bit more difficult to prove in a court.

    As far as I am concerned they SHOULD make it all illegal. Why? To protect those of us with COMMON SENSE from those who don't. Is it a pain in the ass? Yeah but I'd rather be mildly inconvenienced than die as a result of some asshat who was "too important" to be concerned with responsibility and their civic duty towards those around them.

     

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  23.  
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    Matt, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 10:34am

    I disagree.

    I understand being pissed when they ban things like Ipods while you're walking down the street... but honestly... how the hell are you supposed to use a laptop and drive at the same time?

    When I read the headline, I thought "What's the big deal?"

    I love my laptop, but why would I use it while I'm driving?

     

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  24.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 11:01am

    a few more laws...

    and I'll be too distracted trying to fallow them.

     

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  25.  
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    Haha, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 11:04am

    Re: a few more laws...

    Apparently spelling is a distraction for you too . . .

     

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  26.  
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    Apennismightier, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 11:18am

    Laptops on road trips

    Me and my friends use a laptop when we go on long road trips to watch a movie or something. We have a car converter that plugs into the cigarette lighter and has regular AC plugs.

    We hook up a laptop and throw on a movie and use a cassette tape adapter for sound on the car's speakers. Obviously the driver isn't watching but if these morons ever passed the law and we couldn't do that anymore, it would make long trips a hell of a lot longer...

     

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  27.  
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    Apennismightier, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 11:19am

    Has anyone pointed out that police officers can use mounted laptops in their cruisers while driving as well?

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 12:26pm

    Re: Laptop?

    I have map software on my laptop, sometimes I use it in the car instead of a paper map.

     

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  29.  
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    mike3, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 12:45pm

    where being turned into mindless drones

    use reckless driving laws as they are intended and as I see it ALL these things that people say should be band while driving are covered by reckless driving the problem is they are afraid to let anybody make a decision to think things through to make a judgment call they just think they can make rules to cover every situation from here to the moon so the cop who is writing the ticket can pass the blame to the law makers instead of taking responsibility for his decision to write the ticket.

     

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  30.  
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    Another CA Resident, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 2:22pm

    So....

    Wow... i'm reading these comments and i'm completely blown away at how almost all of you just completely ignored the fact that the actual LAW was posted including how it relates to Police/Emergency vehicles and its scope. I guess most of you just got a total bug up your butt and wanted to sound off about something regardless of how dumb it makes you look.

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2007 @ 5:50pm

    Wow.....

    Driving Books for 2020:
    What you can do:
    Blink
    Breath
    Think
    Make minor hand and foot motions to turn the wheel, press the gas pedal or break, or turn on the blinker/whipers
    EVERYTHING ELSE:
    FORBIDDEN

     

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  32.  
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    Dan, Mar 1st, 2007 @ 12:11am

    Probably not the laptop

    I'm familiar with the stretch of road that the accident happened on. I used to drive it several times a week. I live about 50 miles from there now, but still travel that way occationally. It is notorious for the number of accidents that happen along that stretch of road. Also, it was windy and rainy on that day.

    There really isn't any way to tell if the guy was using the laptop, but seeing as this is a high accident road and that conditions were poor, there wouldn't have been any need any abnormal distractions for this accident to have happened. This story is being way over-hyped.

     

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  33.  
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    ConceptJunkie (profile), Mar 1st, 2007 @ 1:50pm

    The most dangerous distraction...

    Based on my experience, the most dangerous driving distraction is talking to my wife when she's in the car. That is far more distracting to me than talking on the phone or messing with the stereo or fumbling with my Mountain Dew. I guiess they need to ban my wife. Of course, I have an excellent driving record, but that won't stop lawmakers from passing so many regulations no person could ever know them all.

    Of course, government is all about burdening people to gain negligible improvements while completely ignoring the cause of 99% of the problem. It's also all about appearing to address problems to the most ignorant, regardless of what is actually accomplished.

    I think our whole society is auditioning for a Darwin award.

     

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  34.  
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    driving for dummies, Mar 11th, 2007 @ 7:50pm

    Re: Laptop?

    maybe im mistaken... but it seems to me that the focus being put on something like laptop use while driving rather than getting the drunks off the highway(some that have 4,5,6 DWI's) and the makeup artists that can't seem to get the job done prior to leaving the bathroom in the morning should be more of an issue. i drive a semi and put in 150k miles on in the truck alone in a year. i see ALL kinds of idiots out driving around do dumb things.ive been witness to such things as the" makeup artist", the "wall street journal guy", the "forgot to do my homework" kid, the "gps said to make a u -turn right here ,right now!" the "sollitair playing police officer" and how can i forget the "gotta watch porn 24/7 on my in dash dvd" guy. ive been using a laptop in the truck for over 4 years, mostly for mapping. i do check email here and there and occasionally check out whats on ebay... i've never had a single problem or even a close call. as a mateerr of fact ..i rote this whole thing while driving down the BQE in NYC. minus a few type-o's im flwless. of coarse some people are more adapted for driving than others, who's to say..although i am a "prof. driver" i also maybe a little impartial to the laws because i also own a company that makes laptop mounts for cars and trucks.lol.

    it doesn't matter what one does while driving.. if your times up... your times up darwin.

     

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  35.  
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    driving for dummies, Mar 12th, 2007 @ 4:05am

    Re: So....

    i think that CA residents and law makers need to find hobbies.the "great" state of CA has some of the dumbest laws on the books and tend to chime in on every topic they can as though they "wrote the book". you all need to go camping, take a road trip in your hybrid,go boating, or stay home and post on message boards, whatever, but please... quit over-reading into things. the issue is stated:
    These single-focus laws miss the point: that there are all sorts of activities that make driving less safe. The best way forward isn't to try and come up with laws banning each and every one, but rather to tackle the issue of unsafe driving as a whole.

     

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  36.  
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    Mary, May 2nd, 2009 @ 8:04am

    Police officer using laptop while stopped at red light

    Yesterday I was waiting at a long red light, and saw that officer in patrol car next to me was typing away on his laptop

    He's in a motor vehicle that's running, in traffic. In our state, Alaska, texting while driving is illegal. I figure I can't text while stopped at a light, but he can type away all he wants?

    You post the real issue is tackling unsafe driving as a whole. How specifically would you do that? People do what they want to, irregardless of how it affects others. To me, I guess continuing to make activities illegal is a tad helpful, at least. Feel free to be more specific on how you think this problem could be corrected.

     

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