Texting ban? EZer said than done

Doug Gulasy

The phrase “pie in the sky” came about in the early years of the 20th century, when it appeared in the song “The Preacher and the Slave.” Coined by Swedish immigrant Joe Hill, the saying originally referred to the possibility of salvation for people suffering on Earth.

Today, the meaning is different. Instead of that original heavenly promise, “pie in the sky” now refers to an impractical or ludicrous idea, one that is unlikely to succeed.

That nearly 100-year-old phrase has been rolling around in my mind since I first read about Cleveland’s ban on texting while driving, which goes into effect July 19.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I applaud the efforts of Cleveland’s City Council, which overwhelmingly passed the ban back in April. Texting while driving is extremely dangerous, putting the guilty party and other motorists alike in danger on the road. It makes sense to ban it.

There’s just one problem: The texting ban will not work. Sure, the ban will, in theory, decrease the number of people who text while driving on Cleveland streets. But how often does reality match theory?

The $100 fine for a first offense makes it more risky for people to text while driving, but I guarantee they’ll still do it. Texting drivers don’t seem to mind a bit of risk, after all.

In my mind, the texting ban is equivalent to the speed limit. Just like texting, speeding is extremely dangerous to both the guilty party and other drivers. In fact, accidents caused by speeding result in more deaths per year than accidents caused by texting. The speed limit attempts to curb the amount of those accidents. Violators of the speed limit receive fines, much like violators of the texting ban.

It’s a perfect analogy, so let’s look no further than the speed limit to see how well the texting ban will work. So how well does the speed limit work? Not very. I drive to work every day on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which has a speed limit of 65 mph. Despite that, drivers routinely exceed the speed limit by five, 10 or even 15 mph. I know I do it. And it’s not just the turnpike, and it’s not just me. Drivers on every road across the United States routinely travel above the speed limit. It’s as if there’s an unwritten rule or an unspoken agreement that they can do so without punishment.

Oh, sure, the police will catch a speeder every once in a while. But the number of people who get caught is minuscule compared to the number of people who don’t. There’s always hope that the texting ban will be different, and maybe it will be. I’m certainly not omniscient; I can’t say with certainty that the texting ban will fail.

But I’m also not foolish. I consider myself a realist, and in my mind, the ban on texting while driving is overly optimistic. It’s a noble idea, but an impractical one. In short, it’s pie in the sky.

Doug Gulasy is a senior newspaper journalism major and columnist for the Summer Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].