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Does texting while driving make sense to you?

Critics are currently outraged over Tory spending on new prisons. They say the federal government's ill-conceived, high-priced crime bills will drive our country into debt. After all, if crime is supposed to be on the decline, why build more jails?

I beg to differ. I believe that Harper Inc. is on the right track. Just as Mister H. did when he decided that feudalism would make a comeback in the 21st century and crowned himself "Lord of the Arctic" and the "Prince of the Internet," our prime minister is showing an uncanny ability to foresee the future. Canada desperately needs more prisons to accommodate the inevitable rise in the inmate population that is sure to be caused by tens of thousands of distracted driving convictions.

Prison time for driving while distracted?

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What else can we try? Nothing short of hard time swinging a hammer seems likely to stem the tide of texting, e-mailing and apping behind the wheel.

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In Vancouver, 1,500 people have been fined $167 for distracted driving so far this year. In 2010, almost 17,000 drivers were charged in Toronto. Those who were found guilty paid $155 fines.

There are currently anti-distracted campaigns going on all over the country. Of course, in the digital age there now are apps with names like txtBlocker and PhoneGuard Drive Safe that will prevent you from texting while driving. Sorry to burst your digital bubble, guys, but we already have the most sophisticated machine known to man (the brain). If that's not working, some app dreamed up by a self-employed shut-in isn't going to do the trick.

The most curious aspect of distracted driving is the blatancy with which its devotees practise their art. No one is afraid of being caught. They do it in plain sight.

The other day a woman was busted for distracted driving by a police officer who was directing traffic at the intersection she was driving through. She didn't even try and conceal her deed. In the past week, I've seen drivers wearing mittens arguing on a cellphone while passing cars on the highway; reading a book on an electronic Light Bright; applying eyeliner while talking on her cellphone and speeding along the right lane texting. My observances are far from unique.

This reckless, dangerous habit used to vex me. How can people take such risks? How can they be so stupid? How can they be so blissfully optimistic? I mean, if there really are citizens who think it is okay to drive 130 km/h while texting "how r u?" shouldn't we be trying to harness their positive "can do" energy for public works projects?

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Then, one day while driving through a sea of texting, talking drivers, I realized that I had it all wrong.

It's not important that people stop distracted driving. No. It's the other way around. People are important, so they drive distracted. It's simple: we do it because we are important; because we are all, each and every one of us, really, really, very, very, extremely, unequivocally, inarguably important.

BlackBerrys, Androids and iPhones are our diminutive digital lackeys. They exist to show us how very special we are. We matter - to the Web (we're caught, get it). Once upon a time, when you were on your own and had a funny thought, you chuckled and moved on. Now you send it out on Twitter to your "followers." (I have 162 @aclarkcomedy). It is critical that we tell everyone everything all the time and this goes triple when we're driving because the act of operating an automobile reminds us we're mortal. A god could control a car using its mind but we have to manually drive ours (no app for that quite yet).

But it's not just iPhones and BlackBerrys that are at fault. According to researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, applying makeup while driving may be more dangerous than texting. They placed cameras in 100 cars and shot 43,000 hours of film chronicling more than three million kilometres of driving. The result? Drivers splattering on the face-cover were three times as likely to be an accident. Those texting were just 2.8 times as likely to get in trouble. Take that, Revlon.

Law makers like to say that the fight to stop distracted driving is similar to the one waged to get people to wear seat belts. There is one big difference. While not wearing a seat belt can kill you, using an iPhone is really, really fun. It reminds us where we stand in this digital world. We aren't shadows haunting a planet careening toward environmental catastrophe; we are divine beings whose every impulse and utterance must be recorded and disseminated for future generations of our demigod offspring.

So don't be dismayed if I check Facebook while speeding down the TransCanada Highway. If I don't post that status update, I might forget it.

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About the Author
Road Sage columnist

Andrew Clark, an award-winning journalist, screenwriter and author, is Director of the Comedy Writing and Performance program at Humber College in Toronto. More

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