Thursday, June 7, 2012

Texting Addicts Beware! You May Be Next If You Don't Shape Up!

The recent ruling in Massachusetts, in which 18-yr. old Aaron Deveau was convicted of vehicular homicide because of his texting while driving ought to get a heads up from all compulsive texters.  Deveau's follies resulted in the death of Donald Bowley - whose car he slammed into. Deveau received a concurrent sentence of 2 1/2 years for the homicide and 2 years for the texting which led to it. Actually, the kid got off with a wrist slap as the judge suspended all but a year. In Barbados, this kid would be facing TEN years hard labor at Glendairy Prison, and having his license retired permanently. (The kid's toughest punishment is probably having his drivers' license suspended for 15 years....big freakin... deal!)

But this case highlights the tentative nature of the law in the U.S. (despite 39 states supposedly having some type of statute against texting while driving). As opposed to such a tentative limbo, small island states in the Caribbean determined from early they were going to establish the same harsh punishments as for ordinary manslaughter, or drinking while driving, especially since many studies have shown the lapse of attention in texting while driving (often 3-5 seconds) rivals that from sleeplessness or driving drunk ....e.g. at an 0.21 blood alcohol level). So why not throw the damned book at them?

Why not indeed? Maybe because so many are doing it? Hogwash! That merely indicates the potential for many more such tragic accidents.  And no I am not at all tolerant when I hear refrains, such as that from one Ashley Cochran (quoted in The Boston Globe),  to the effect "Too bad for that dude, but it won’t happen to me, ’’

This is pure bullshit, and more evidence of the social media psychosis that spans not just Twitter feeds, but Facebook as well. This idiotic conviction that you are the exceptional one, the singular person to whom no ill will befall if you encase your little brain in your solipsistic wonder world.  At least with Facebook isolation, you only risk getting dumber (see Mark Bauerlein's 'The Dumbest Generation') but texting while taking a 2-ton machine down the street? Lots more nasty stuff can transpire than lowering your IQ by 15 points. Well, kindly think of that when - after killing several kids in a crackup -  you might end up serving 15 years or more in a hard core prison and how much of your life will be wasted then! And no that's no exaggeration, because I do expect these kinds of tragedies to increase and states to toughen their sanctions in response.

Maybe it's my Asperger's -tilted personality, but I cannot fathom what is so damned important and crucial that some one has to be texting while driving.  (Or texting compulsively in any case, even while not driving!)That some issue or event is THAT bloody important that it must intermittently occupy crucial attention on the roads while behind a two-ton potentially lethal machine. To me, from where I sit, only an idiot would or could believe any issue is that important that s/he needs to be trying to text a person while driving on a highway. Look, if the freakin' text message is that almighty important, pull off the damned road, pull into a gas station maybe ....then do your damned texting. Otherwise it can wait!

This is also - again- a sign that social media is converting millions (mainly youngsters) into über-dumpkopfs. I explored this phenomenon at length in a blog two years ago, i.e.:

And I've not budged from that assessment. I continue to see Facebook largely as a waste of time (one reason I am not on it), and no ...was not at all surprised that so many gullible dummies bought into Zuckerberg's IPO at a ridiculous price and now are stewing at their losses. Why would anyone believe an initial offering was worth THAT much when most of the public (something like 58%, uh yeah....mainly over 35) sees little or no value in it other than aimless social schmoozing? Twitter is another culprit, chewing up valuable time and conferring some false belief that everyone is always connected, instantly. Except when you are not, and you suddenly collide with a fellow driver who expected you to be at least paying attention to the damned road!

What we need, if this country is to have any future, is less of the "Daily ME" and more attention to issues, events that affect us all. Texting is certainly fine within the proper context, and that means proper place and time. But there are other times it's not on, and no amount of specious rationalizing can make it so. That includes while driving, and certainly while attending a college class.

One person recently asked me what I'd have done in my teaching days if I'd ever caught a student texting or twittering in one of my physics classes, say in Barbados....or even when I taught in the States. I said I would take the damned machine and hurl it into the wall and let the offender pick up the pieces- if it was a 2nd offense. (And no, I would not be paying any compensation for it.)

First offenders would have the option of undertaking a special research project (usually expected to take 10-20 hrs.) or doing an additional lab assignment, where the entire lab is designed by the person, as well as the equipment to carry it out....and constructed on one's own time.

 You want your Twitter, or text machine, you best keep them quiet and out of sight while in attendance at any of my labs or classes!  The ultimate sign of disrespect is to text while a teacher is giving a lesson or conducting a lab!

The same needs to go for texting while driving, but with even more emphasis on the punishment!

A newsflash for text-a- holics: Life is more than one incessant series of texts from dawn to midnight!

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