It’s Not The Sail Fawns…

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The geese have erupted into their usual flapping and screeching over reports that yet another study shows (supposedly) that using sail fawns while driving contributes to distracted driving – and accidents.

But as much as I hate sail fawns and the constant needless gabbling at all times and in all places, they aren’t the real problem here. Think about it: Commercial pilots manage to maintain control of an aircraft hurtling through the skies at hundreds of miles an hour while communicating on two-way radios (the equivalent of sail fawns) and doing several other things besides.

Commercial truckers manage to maintain control, too, while working their CBs.

The truth of the matter is that many drivers are perfectly able to handle a phone conversation while also handling their cars.

The problem is that others aren’t – but it’s not the phones. It’s their already marginal driving ability.

Just as some people are less capable behind the wheel when completely sober than a high-skilled driver is even with a few beers in him, so it is that some drivers can handle having a chat while driving – and driving better – than others can with both hands on the wheel. Hell, there are “drivers” out there who should not be allowed to put their hands on a steering wheel, period – whether their other hand is holding a cell phone or not.

We can’t discuss this honestly, of course.

Instead, laws have to be constantly dumbed-down to accommodate the least common denominator – the biggest idiot; the most inattentive; the flapjack who can’t deal with two things at once. Or even one thing at once. 

That’s the new America (where at least I know I’m freeeeeeeeeeeee.… ) 

Just as “no right on red” laws have popped up all over because of a few subpar drivers who lack the competence to execute the maneuver safely, so also we now have laws forbidding the use of cell phones while driving, irrespective of your actual driving. You canbe handling your car with aplomb, clearly causing no trouble – but if you have that phone open, it’s open season. Ticket time. 

Maybe Taser time, too – if you complain about it. 

But, why stop there? Some people can’t manage eating while driving, either – yet this is a common (and for now, still legal) activity. Should it, too, be cause for a ticket? And if having a conversation while operating a vehicle is the bottom line issue, why not ban that, too? There is no doubt some “drivers” are “distracted” by it – and many other things, besides.

The possibilities are endless. But the problem won’t be solved until we get up the gumption to deal with the underlying rot, which is the declining ability of the average person to do more than turn a key, slide the lever from Park to Drive, hit the cruise control – and gape vacuously into space.

The licensing system is a farce; if you can’t pass the current “test” then truly, you must be a candidate for the Short Bus. Quite literally we will give a license to almost anyone. Almost no demonstration of actual skill behind the wheel is required. Just answer a few questions having to do with bureaucratic rules (How many feet must you stay behind a school bus? Must your child always be restrained in a child safety seat?) and maybe do a lap around the DMV parking and you are officially anointed a “driver” by the powers that be.

Even if you can’t. (Just look around; the Clovers are all over!) 

Traffic enforcement is based on revenue collection – and so focuses on enforcing a growing gantlet of petty violations, most of which have no bearing on whether you are competently driving. Drive 43 mph on a road with a speed limit of 55 and a dozen cars stacked up behind you and no cop will bother you. But pass the slow poke at a speed faster than 55 mph – even if just for the length of time necessary to execute the pass safely – and the same cop will hit his blue and reds for sure.

Now we will get another slew of laws empowering the cops to pull us over for using a cell phone while driving – or just talking, period – even if our driving is blameless. None of that matters. It won’t be a viable defense before the judge. Because some people can’t handle doing more than one thing at a time safely, you will not be allowed to do two things at a time, either.

It’s why “driving” has become not just oxymoronic but an increasingly unpleasant hassle for those of us who can do it passably well.

It’s getting to be not worth the bother. May as well stay home and read a good book – perhaps about the America that once was.


  1. Maybe you can help me out on this one, Eric.

    Back in the ’90s I spent a Saturday attending a “driver improvement” course to get rid of some points off my record and I made the mistake of choosing my seat based on the ole “there’s a cute girl sitting all alone” method. All morning she talked my ear off about how unfair it was for her to be there “just because she had a little trouble getting through an intersection with a coffee cup in her hand.” Finally, the state trooper teaching the class and the battle axe from the DMV both told her to STFU. They said that doing anything other than driving (the phrase “two and ten” was used) was “careless” and she deserved the ticket.

    So what happened since then? Why was it okay back then to write her up for careless driving while drinking coffee but now days people can talk on the phone and even send text messages but that’s okay? Did VA enact some new piece of legislation? Was there a court case that threw this out? Or did people just get “entitled” somewhere along the way?

    • The issue (as I see it) is careless (or inept/reckless – etc.) driving. That happens every day without sail fawns or coffee involved – and both hands on the wheel.

      The way it used to work – and the way I think it ought to work – is simply this: If a cop sees a person driving erratically or otherwise not controlling the vehicle, then they should be pulled and cited for careless driving or inattentive driving. If they cause an accident, the charges escalate. But why go after a driver whose driving is not a problem merely because he’s on the phone or drinking coffee or whatever? I say, if their driving is fine, leave them alone. The alternative is what we have – the ongoing, escalating criminalization of almost everything, based on “what ifs” and the Least Common Denominator (i.e, if one person is inept or can’t be trusted to behave/exercise good judgment then everyone gets treated as if they, too, can’t be trusted to behave/exercise good judgment).

      That leads to a suffocating society run by control freaks for the benefit of idiots. What Mike Judge called “Idiocracy.”

      No thanks!

      • I agree with what you are saying but I don’t think you understood my question.

        What changed in the past 15 years? Why were the police able to charge somebody with careless/distracted driving back then but they can’t do anything today?

        • I think they can charge a person with careless driving (or its equivalent); in other words, I think the law is likely still on the books – but it may be that it has been superseded by these newer “safety-minded” laws. Maybe there’s a cop or traffic lawyer lurking here who can tell us?

  2. Hi Jared,

    Well, if you’re a Libertarian, how do you justify the idea that because some people might do something (such as drive inattentively while having a phone conversation) then all people should be punished for merely having a conversation, even if their driving is not a problem? You make a global assertion, “the fact of the matter is that most people can’t.” Really? What evidence do you have? I’d bet you the “most people” are people who are already poor drivers who would fail a proper driving test, sail fawn or no sail fawn. That’s the real problem here – and we keep trying to Band Aid it with laws and regulations that don’t do a thing about the low-quality driving of the typical American.

    And also, there’s this to consider: Most people probably can’t shoot with great accuracy, either. Would you forbid them from owning a gun on this basis? (It’s an argument commonly trotted out by gun-grabbers.) The principle is the same.

    Now, I do agree with you completely as regards damages. People should be held fully, completely responsible for whatever damage they cause – and otherwise punished accordingly, too. There’s no moral dilemma here. If you break something you pay for it. The cost of the item – or your ability to pay – is immaterial. If i takes the next 20 years, so be it. And certainly, people whose driving is reckless or grossly incompetent who end up hurting or killing someone should be punished severely by the system.

    I don’t think we disagree on fundamentals…

    • I agree with Jared 100% on this issue. The only evidence I need is to see all the dip shits on the phone while I’m driving anywhere. Most of the people driving erratically are on the phone. What more evidence is necessary?

      • For me, it’s the Dumbshit Standard. In other words, because some people are dumbshits, we all get treated like dumbshits. This is what sets the cavalcade (of new laws, ever-less-freedom) in motion. A dumbshit does something dumb; instead of making that dumbshit pay for his dumbshit-ness, what happens? We get a blanket prohibition that affects everyone, dumbshits and non-dumbshits alike. Dumbshit can’t back-up his car without running over a kid; we all get to buy back-up cameras for our next new car. Dumbshit shoots himself while cleaning his loaded gun. We get mandatory trigger locks for our guns. Dumbshit who can’t swim decides to sue because he almost drowned swimming in a lake; we get “no swimming allowed” laws. And on and on it goes. I say, let the Dumbasses fall victim to natural selection instead of turning society into a Dumbass Society!

        • I don’t know man. While I do understand the “Dumbshit Standard” is a vicious cycle, the division of attention between driving and holding/talking on a cell is too great to be ignored. To consider the action of talking on the phone holding a the cell to your ear while driving as an American right is outdated. Laws need to catch up with the times on that bro. I’m going out on a limb here, but I will say driving while using a cell is kind of like driving at night without lights!

          • “I’m going out on a limb here, but I will say driving while using a cell is kind of like driving at night without lights!”

            A ghost rider. 😉
            In many (if not all) states, there is a statute against “careless” driving. If some one is weaving about the road (regardless of reason) that would appear to be an example of careless driving to me. The LEO needs to enforce laws on the book.

            (Although I will concede that it is easier for an officer to cite someone for driving while talking on a cell phone.)

          • I hear what you’re saying, but let me elaborate some more. A dumbshit would use his cell while in busy traffic, when full time and attention is called for. But a not-Dumbshit might wait and use the phone when the traffic thins out – or even when there’s no traffic. But make it illegal and there’s no longer any discretion or judgment. Doesn’t matter that you weren’t driving inattentively; just that a cop spots you on the phone. Ticket time. I’m all for jacking up the Clovers who are a definite danger to themselves and others, but I can’t support hassling people “just because” when they may not be a problem at all. The Clovers can’t handle driving at 80 or 90 mph, either – so none of us get to (legally). Instead, we’re barely able to drive at speeds that were routine 40 years ago – because some Clovers can’t deal with it.

  3. I have to disagree with you. My friend was almost hit by a man who was on the phone. He wasn’t paying attention. I mean, I’m a libertarian all the way, but that doesn’t mean that people have the liberty to commit acts of reckless endangerment. I know a lot of people claim they can do all sorts of things (including being drunk) while driving, but the fact of the matter is that most people can’t. And what’s so important to talk about that it has to remain legal to do so? Maybe if somehow poeple really did have to pay and I mean PAY for their damages (not only with money but with imprisonment or maybe even worse in cases of vehicular homicide) more people would think twice. But then again, some dumbasses will never learn.

  4. yeah. it wasnt a misprint. it was 6 billion. AT LEAST. Like it was said by arthur schnitzler…humans are a virus…at least they act very similar…they spread like wildfire…they have no natural predators to keep their populations in check…and they absorb everything around them until there is nothing left. Yet the paradox is that most humans..well sheep…cannot see this because they see things from their own perspectives…which is filled with emotion…and of course…HOPE!!! yay.
    i say drive fast. disobey all other laws other than your own. and be prepared to watch this whole thing burn one day…get your marshmellows!!

  5. I actually liked this article and comments. Eric says it is not about the bad things we do in cars but it is the poor drivers some people are. Dom says he can not responsibly drive with a cell phone in use. Then we have the guy that says we need to kill off a few million people. I think he is bringing it all to a point. Life does not matter so why have any laws to protect us.

    • I agree that texting while driving (or watching vids) is not a good plan for most people. But should it be illegal? I dunno. Once you accept that it should be, then the cavalcade begins. Anything that some Clover thinks is “unsafe” becomes illegal; another excuse to be hassled by cops – and the key thing (to me) is that you get hassled not because you’re driving dangerously, but because you’re on the phone (or whatever).

      To me, the decisive thing ought to be some clear, specific evidence that a person isn’t driving competently – for whatever reason. Senile old coot; Clover; addled sail fawn user. But the thing that matters isn’t the fact that the person is old, or on the phone. It’s that their driving sucks!

      That cuts through everything. No being judged according to some arbitrary Cloverite standard. If you’re handling your car ok – then you’re cool and to be left in peace. But if you aren’t handling your car well, then you get The Man.

      That seems righteous to me….

    • Ah, Clover… chewy, stringy, tough on the choppers Clover…

      Laws are no guarantee of safety, let alone life. History is mostly the story of laws being used to oppress people – and kill them, too. Comrade Stalin loved laws; his estimated 40 million victims may have thought otherwise. Laws are just man-made constructs; they can be wise or stupid and good or evil. A thing does not become good simply by dint of it also being legal – and a thing can be very bad indeed, even though perfectly legal.

      Just laws impose restrictions on people only when their actions would otherwise cause harm to others. That excludes all “for your own good” laws – because much as you may not like what someone else does, much as it may even be harmful to him, it is none of your business (and thus, no business of the law’s) because it is his life, therefore his choice. Not yours to make for him.

      It is a concept called liberty you may be unfamiliar with.

      I will marinate you a few hours more; perhaps that will achieve the desired result….

      • Yes laws can be good and bad but they are mostly good and well intentioned and if there is a bad one you work to get it fixed. Yes laws do not solve everything but they sure do help a lot.

        You say that it is not the distractions but the poor driving that is the problem. If that is true and you are a good driver then how would you drive after slamming down 6 quick beers, then start texting on the cell phone while eating a messy hamburger and dumping a hot coffee down your lap. Good driving helps but better decisions are 10 times better than a driver’s ability.

        Race car drivers are involved in a lot of highway accidents. What is your explanation for that?

    • Naw, it wasn’t a few million that need to disappear. It was 6 billion. I agree, if 6 billion people vanished the remaining ones would be a good shape. I am, without a doubt, the best driver out of anyone I know (and they will agree). I can say with absolute confidence that my driving skills completely suck when I use my cell on the road. Anytime my attention is not on the road and my surroundings I consider myself driving dangerously. Like I said before, I’ve had times where I don’t even recall patches of road I’ve traveled because my attention was on the phone.

  6. The thing is, if you follow that line then you’ve opened the door to more dumbing down based on the same principle. I did Bob Bondurant’s school. That guy could maintain better control of his car half drunk, with a chili dog in his lap and a sail fawn in one hand, than most people could with both hands on the wheel and totally sober. Of course we’re not all Bob Bondurant. But the point is, some drivers can multi-task and still maintain control better than other drivers can even when they’re just trying to drive and nothing else. I know, for example, that I am a much better driver than my wife is – even if I had a sail fawn in my hand.

    I think a more reasonable approach is to wait for a driver to do something (like weave across the double yellow, blow through a red light, not proceed when the light turns green, etc.) to indicate he isn’t maintaining proper control or paying enough attention – whether it’s due to a sail fawn or just ineptness, doesn’t matter. Then go after him.

    But why hassle drivers who haven’t actually done something to indicate they’re not paying paying attention or maintaining control of their vehicles?

    To me, this is like dicking with people for “speeding.” There’s nothing necessarily unsafe about driving faster than a number pulled out of some bureaucrat’s ass. Some people can operate a car more safely, with better awareness and control, at 70 than others can at 50.

    Why hassle the guy doing 70 just because the dweezil doing 50 can’t handle it?

    Why hassle the guy who who’s on his sail fawn, but not giving any reason to question his ability to drive?

      • Probably (I’m not sure, but I’d bet it is). But many new cars have LCD displays right there in the center stack – and some can play DVDs.

        I think watching TV while driving is a different animal than talking on the phone because you can talk on the phone without taking your eyes off the road while (obviously) with the TV, you can’t watch the road, by definition.

        • I don’t know bro. I think watching tv and the cell phone use of today have a lot in common dude. I’m pretty sure you can’t have a tv in the front of your car and that is because complete distraction. When you are using a cell phone, or texting isn’t it the same animal? I will not argue the fact that holding a phone to your ear is the dangerous part. The dangerous part is the typing and looking at the screen of the phone.

  7. Ya’ll are going to hate me, but I think using a cell phone while driving should be banned! If the person is using hands free style, or speaker that is cool. When they have their phone in the hand and holding it to their ear, I think, is super distracting for them and dangerous. I am going to grab a percentage and say maybe 65% of the time someone is driving erratically (fast/slow/weaving/etc) I look close and see them on the phone. Just in the past few months I’ve missed a few green lights because of people on their phones not paying attention and sitting though the cycle. I rarely use my phone, but when I do it while driving sometimes I lose track of time and space!

    • Hi there from the land of OZ!
      Where we drive on the left side of the road which is right, get it? 🙂
      Out here on the frontier of civilisation, we are just HAVING to pass a law to stop retarded people texting while driving!
      Several deaths here recently directly due to it.
      I mentioned it to (admittedly a Macktuckey-eating-super-drink-drinking) young neighbour who said quote: “Yeah, that’s a dumb thing to do,(texting) but will they ban reading ’em, too?”

      I think we need graded licences today, from Grade 1 to 20.
      With a special sticker 10″ square on the back of the vehicle nominating your grade, where 5 is passing a real driving test including hazard handling, up to 10 having passed a hazard test level while on the phone, eating, or at 10+ drinking hot coffee at 40 m.p.h.
      Level 1-5 requiring a co-driver of at least level 5 ( slalom twists and emergency stops at 30 m.p.h.)

      The speed is pretty well immaterial – IF the vehicle and driver are properly configured. 4 wheel drive trucks aren’t – most of their drivers either. 🙂

      Over 60 mph only an exceptional set of reflexes, coupled with a good vehicle and a god/luck makes much difference.

      I went thru an advanced driving school as a kid (wanted an ARDC (racing driver) ticket. Despite the fact that till then I KNEW I was great, took me 3 goes.

      I was never as scared on the race-track as I am getting to my local shopping centre. I have a special tow-bar on my vehicle, because statistically some doped-up mother is going to “nudge” me in the parking lot.
      Already paid for itself!

      I believe a good move would be to licence different lanes on your roads (see above).
      In Oz it wouldn’t work because we usually only have two lanes, even on so-called “highways”. It is considered that a safe distance between a 2 ton work truck and a domestic 4×4 is around 2.5 feet. (Also most roads are “soft-shouldered” – the tar just stops. Oh, BTW – I mean going in different directions. Our 2 lane highways are mainly one lane each way.

      Can be hairy watching a 28 wheeler (with a trailer) coming at you in the middle of the night, and you know he has been driving for 30 hours straight.
      You hope it is a gas tanker – not livestock – as the gas tankers are far better maintained and balanced.

      I used to drive a lot on country roads, lost a few wing mirrors in my time. Once held a record with my insurance company for number of windscreens shattered. Now there is a real thrill. Old style windscreens simply glazed and went opaque. You had to react real fast and punch the the glass out. (Most roads are still not fully surfaced in Oz, they lay down tar with river gravel in it and it comes loose alla time………

      y’all have a nice day – and think about driving conditions the rest of us live with…… remember -great racing drivers stay relaxed – right up to the moment that something inevitably goes wrong on the track/car

  8. Let me know if a law passes banning eating while driving. It has become a habit to eat macaroni while driving to my substitute music teacher job here in Oakton. I don’t want to disobey the new law.

  9. I totally agree with all of your driving assessments. There are some real issues out there. I was riding with my mom the other day…I was driving of course, and I needed to weave through the retards…and I was going about 12 above the “speed limit,” and my mom was like whoa!! The speed limit here is 35!!!!! AHHHHHH!!! And I was like what does that matter…a year ago it was 45!! And I am not weaving erratically…
    Yet, I see her driving around 6-10 miles under the speed limit at times because she gets on her cell phone and actually i think, forgets she is driving a two ton piece of metal. Yet I am the insane one.
    What has always bothered me about these new regulations for driving, which no doubt are meant to bring everyone down to the dumbest drivers skills,is that first it started off with the seatbelt law, and cellphone law, and texting law, and maybe down the road…the eating law…is that for a cop to notice any of these things…he must take his eyes off the road…and look over into the car being driven by the possible purpatraitor. And with the many cops out there…95 percent I am positive are not good drivers themselves…they do not need to be driving through traffic AND looking into people’s cars to see what is going on in them.
    I mean, obviously that is one of the millions of thing I believe makes it very unsafe on roads…and the world…I mean…it would be a hell of a lot safer on the roads if about 6 billion people just died…


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