Evolution of Distracted Driving

Governor DeWine signs Bill on Distracted Driving January 3, 2023

Governor Dewine signs Senate Bill 288 strengthening Ohio laws around cell phone use and other electronic devices while operating a vehicle. The Bill allows law enforcement officials to pull over drivers with a cell phone in their hands as a primary offense. Senate Bill 288 goes into effect in 90 days, until then warnings will be given out by police officers for the first six months. According to this signed Bill, drivers will still be allowed to answer their phones and hold their phones to their ears while talking and driving.

Governor DeWine said, “signing this Bill today is a great honor because this legislation will, without a doubt, prevent crashes and save lives”.

Drivers have been operating vehicles while being distracted for years. That is nothing new. However, the manner in which drivers are distracted has evolved from maps and map books to computerized devices that talk to you while driving.

The little red map book official street atlas of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County seemed like every new driver’s “must-have”, sold for about $5 in several stores and gas stations around town. Yes, so reading a map while driving is safe right? Or let’s talk about writing out the directions to follow first, but having to read them while driving. No navigator present? No problem. Just leave the map on the seat next to you. Everything will be fine. Hmm.

AAA Membership and Trip Tickets
Are the American Automobile Association (AAA) Trip Tiks a thing of the past? Do they still print them out? I remember stopping at AAA and asking them for the “trip ticket” as I made travel plans to head to the Allegheny Mountains. They would print out directions for you on an 8.5 x 11 in. piece of paper to take in your car to use during your travels. It would even include construction, road closures, or road tolls. They never asked me if I was traveling solo or had a guest navigating during the excursion (where is that backseat driver I could use now?). They merely printed the ticket out with a start and end point, complete with turn-by-turn directions that clearly stated in 1.3 miles turn right or turn left. I recall looking at my odometer and adding the miles in my head so that I knew in advance when to turn. My car never told me anything, the absent passenger never did either. The odometer and the math I did in my head -told me exactly when to turn.

Fast forward x number of years and …here comes the first-generation GPS.

A global positioning system with preloaded maps of states, cities, and streets became most affordable to civilians in the early 1990s. Great! A device I look at while driving that tells me when to turn and in how blocks or miles to do so. Sometimes I would miss my turn and I feel like that little device should be saying, “hey you paying attention to speed limit signs and passing lanes, turn right HERE now!”

If you traveled to another state and did not change the state manually on the GPS, it often didn’t find the address and you’d be left puzzled. Then if you had friends or family who built a home in the middle of nowhere, the GPS would state, “no matches found”. The GPS couldn’t find them, not because they didn’t want to be found, but because the address was not yet added to the preloaded map. Computerized updates were needed often, or you’d risk getting lost, or in need of a friend to explain directions to you, turn by turn. Hopefully, Aunt Ethel knew her way around town or you’d be lost from her directions too! You know- turn by the little red store and head down the hill from Peach Street. But oh yes, cell phones were not something we had in vehicles yet.

Welcome to 2023 where cell phones with Google maps, MapQuest, and other driving resources have all the maps preloaded with turn-by-turn directions, including any slowing in traffic from car accidents or construction. It will even tell you to go a different way than usual before you even take that initial turn onto your favorite freeway. Amazing.

My cell phone knows when I am sleeping, and knows when I am awake. It knows where I work, live and where my kids go to school. It’s my own private stalker I tell you. AND it’s BOSSY, telling me to go to bed, that it is “sleep time”. I’ve named my cell phone Miss Daisy, as in the movie, “Driving Miss Daisy”, after the bossy, stubborn old lady who tells people what to do. Well, I’m an adult Miss Daisy and I’m NOT going to bed yet!

Driving has always had some distractions. They’ve just evolved from the “way things used to be”. It has changed from the distractions our parents knew, and the parents of teens today, worry more so. Yes, cell phones are distractive but so are paper maps, GPS systems and — backseat drivers! GPS systems and cell phones can be muted but how about that backseat driver who knows more than you do? Many of us wish they could be muted right?

A message for new drivers: be prepared to travel wisely, choose friends who help you navigate, and listen to your audio directions, don’t stare at the computerized screen. Ignoring a backseat driver is proof that we can tune out some distractions!

As for me and my cell phone- well she’s right often times and five minutes after I ignore her pop-up message to go to bed, I’m fast asleep on the couch.

Related Articles

Latest Articles