Sail fawns and “one for the road” – Why not ban bad drivers instead?

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The National Safety Council (one of those private but sounds-like-it’s-the government “interest groups”) wants to see cell phone use in cars banned.

I hate sail fawns, too. They’re annoying and they’re over-used. Society got along perfectly well without them as recently as the ’90s. But banning their use in vehicles is the automotive equivalent of gun control: It blames a tool, an inanimate device, for the idiocy of those (always a minority) who cannot handle that tool responsibly.

The real problem isn’t cell phones. It’s the degraded quality of the average American driver; the might-as-well-be-nonexistent training – and testing – that we require before we let people get behind the wheel. And the system that does nothing meaningful to take objectively bad drivers (that is, the ones who actually cause accidents) off the road, while endlessly harassing drivers who have never caused any harm but who “speed.”

The Safety Council says that flapping your gums on a cell while driving is very much like drunk driving; that it works out to a degree of impairment comparable to having a BAC level of .04 to .06 – which is close to the legal minimum necessary in most states to be convicted of DUI.

But here’s the thing: The DUI/DWI standard has been dumbed-down, too. It used to be (about 20 years ago) .10 or .12 BAC – a standard that was arrived at not by pulling a number out of a hat (or caving to pressure from hysterical “moms”) but by examining accident stats. It was determined that actual accidents – real ones, not theoretical “might have happeneds”- correlated to BAC levels of .10 or higher.

So – reasonably – the law reflected this.

Then came Mothers Against Drunk Driving. (You know that anything with “Mothers” in its title is not going to be reasonable – right?)

No surprise, a campaign of emotional blackmail caused state DUI/DWI standards to be revised downward to the point where BAC levels that used to be legal – because there was no evidence of a real-world correlation with actual accidents – became evidence of “drunk driving.”

Most of the drivers ensnared  manifested no outward signs of “drunk” driving – other than blowing into a Breathalzyer. They  just got caught up in sobriety checkpoint dragnets; otherwise, they would have gone unnoticed – and made it home without incident. The actual facts about BAC levels and accidents (again, real ones) supports this irrefutably. In fact, while the cops are manning sobriety checkpoints, the handful of real drunk drivers – those with BAC levels of /10 or above, the ones who will cross the double yellow into your lane and kill you – now stand a better chance of getting away with it, because there are fewer cops on the road to find them.  

But MADD fixates on theoretical risk – ever diminishing – and always based on the least common denominator. The least able, the most marginally skilled driver.

And so it is today with sail fawns.

Take one borderline inadequate driver. Add a cell – or a frozen margarita over dinner – and, presto!  Now you have an accident waiting to happen. But take away the cell (or the margarita) and you still have a marginal driver. Who is still an accident waiting to happen.

Just slightly less so.

Conversely, take a high-skilled driver. Add one margarita over dinner – or cell phone chat – and you’ve still got a driver with a higher skill level than the didn’t-have-a-drink, not gabbling on his sail fawn marginally skilled driver n the example above.

Who is the more likely to run a light and t-bone your car?

Of course.

And yet, we focus the law and all its punitive powers not on the actual danger but on the assumption that everyone is an imbecile and ought to be treated accordingly.

The problem with that is there’s no fixing stupid. You just get more of it – and aggravate the hell out of the people who aren’t.

Maxim: A little skill goes a long way. Much longer – in terms of public safety – than yet another Band Aid law designed to protect the least common denominator from itself.

And us from him.


  1. I’ve conducted s-a-a-a-f-e-t-e-e briefings on distracted driving and have concluded that technology isn’t the culprit, immaturity, lack of consideration for others, and selfishness are the real causes of distracted driving. Why not outlaw scarfing down fast food behind the wheel, which should appease the nutrition Nazis anyway. Or require automakers and aftermarket suppliers to cap the volume output at 70 Db? Well, there has always been some manner of laws against careless and reckless driving. There was also a time when said laws were appropriately and fairly enforced by patient and disciplined PEACE officers whom knew when to give some immature punk or ditzy dame a gentle but firm “talking to” and when to “book ’em, Dan-O!”. Today’s crop of badged and armed psycopaths, if they engage at all, are looking to fulfill a quota or look for an excuse to “play with their toys.”
    Handling distractions while driving is an indiuviudual choice and should remain so..

    • Back in the 1930s GM made numerous films to ultimately sell cars. The subject matter and quality varies widely. There are some rather good basic engineering principle films on automotive components for instance. But one in particular is a goofy drama called “Wreckless”. It is used to sell the safety of then modern GM cars but in a way so foreign to today’s popular mindset it would ‘trigger’ people now. It’s on and youtube.

  2. I understand completely. I’m a commercial driver with over 1,000,000 miles under my butt, no accidents, no moving violations – I’m pretty sure I know how to drive. Learned to drive cars at a young age, and started driving on the streets when I was 14 (now 48) with no license. Did I mention that the car I drove at 14 was a ’73 Vega with a V8, that’d outrun pretty much anything light-to-light, with a top speed of around 170mph?

    When there was first talk about banning the use of sail fawns while driving, I was all for it – having been very nearly run down while walking 3 or 4 times in the week prior, by people using sail fawns. Then I read a letter to the editor of a local newspaper, written by a man who is a licensed pilot. In his letter, he made note of the fact that, he can fly in weather so bad that he can’t see out the windows, using instruments only, while on the radio with 2 or 3 different air traffic controllers – but he won’t be allowed to use his fawn while driving? Got me to thinking, it did.
    Almost immediately it occurred to me that, even without sail fawns, the drivers that people are whining about have no skill in the first place – they weren’t whining about me or drivers in the same class as myself.
    Yet I am being punished, punitively restricted, due to the actions of someone else.

    Yeah – a lot like gun control. . . punish the people who didn’t commit a crime.

    I’ve tried to explain to people that there are only 2 crimes – aggressing against a person, and aggressing against their property – I asked where driving while talking on the fawn and *not* causing an accident fits. Same with DUI – if a person makes it from A to B without harming another person or their property, where is the crime?
    *EVERY* time, I get a laundry list of maybes and possiblies and might-have-beens – but no *actuals*.

    “The problem with that is there’s no fixing stupid. You just get more of it – and aggravate the hell out of the people who aren’t.”

  3. American drivers are horendous because they are TRAINED and punished to be that way. OBEY the light. OBEY the sign. OBEY the nice officer. Or get fined — hard.

    This creates a society of robotic drivers doing what the light/sign/officer says rather than thinking for themselves and doing what should be done in that situation.

    The drivers in the caotic areas of Asia such as Manila, Philippines appear to Americans to be insane drivers because the Asian drivers think fast and KNOW what is around them and react to that accordingly. And they very rarely pay attention to signs. Thank god for that!

    • Moose,

      You’ve nailed it. The passivity of American drivers is matched only by their rancid hatred of any driver who dares to show independent judgment – for example, ignoring a “no turn on red” sign when it’s clear – obviously clear – there’s no oncoming traffic within a half-mile. The Clover – my term for such people – will gesticulate, flash his lights and honk his horn at this show of disobedience.

      Ever hear the story of the monkeys and the banana and the fire hose?

  4. In all actuality it requires two functioning brain cells to properly operate an automobile, yet we find on a daily basis that a significant portion of the American population finds is mundane task overwhelming. One will never go broke under estimating the intelligence of the American population.


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