With the news that a driver went to absurd lengths to watch videos on his laptop while speeding and veering across lanes in a winter storm, distracted driving is once again at the forefront of traffic discussions around Alberta. If drivers don’t heed warnings about talking on the phone, let alone balancing their laptops on their dashboards, then it’s apparent—as it always has been—that the $172 fine for distracted driving is a laughable deterrent. In a world where gadgets have become habitual extensions of the body, perhaps it’s time for a more personal punishment.
What ever happened to good old-fashioned confiscation? When children disrupt entire classrooms by favouring a noisy toy over the task at hand, their gadgets are taken away and they’re left feeling singled out and embarrassed. But when drivers are caught splitting their attention between icy roads and their phones, they’re allowed to simply carry on, their phone in one hand and a marginal fine in the other.
The sting of a fine heals quickly. The fear of inconvenience and the shame of having your phone temporarily confiscated, however, might make earnest tech addicts think twice about taking their focus off of the road.
We increasingly consider our phones to be one of the body’s vital organs, and that even a day of separation is devastating. Sounds like the perfect opportunity to give distracted drivers a chance to consider their actions. Give police the legal authority to catch badly veering and obviously distracted drivers, confiscate and impound their phones for 24 hours, and leave them to continue on down their lonesome path, cut off from the world and alone with their guilty thoughts. To add to the frustration, the guilty parties will have to answer to friends and families, who will inevitably begin to ask why their calls and texts have gone answered.
The final punishment? Having to pick up their phones from the police station after 24 hours. If the inconvenience of taking time out of their day to visit the cop shop isn’t infuriating enough, maybe it will dawn on them how absurd it is that so much stress and anger has centred around the compulsion to use such an insignificant gadget.
The police routinely confiscate alcohol, drugs and even cars if the user is shown to be using them for ill, yet phones have become strangely sacred, despite being an ever-present distraction for drivers. As adults, we should know when to resist the temptation to cling to our flashy devices. Repeatedly, it seems we need authority figures to embarrass us and make us think about what we’ve done.