Justifying Our Misbehaviour

SoapboxTonight's six o'clock news contained a story about how police had issued over 5,500 tickets for using electronic devices while driving offences across the province in February 2013. More than 100 more were ticketed for driving without due care and attention. It means to me that lots of drivers aren't obeying the law and more than 100 were caught doing something dangerous because of it.

The reporter interviewed a couple of the drivers receiving tickets and they both had rationalizations for their actions. They both also knew that what they were doing was wrong. Why do we justify our misbehaviour when we get behind the wheel? Since we all pay for one's mistakes you can't even say that you are only taking the risk on yourself.

I've listened to many explanations for committing a violation, both at the side of the road and in traffic court. If it wasn't an offence like "Haven't you got anything better to do? Why aren't you out catching (insert your favorite crime here)?" it was a defence like "No one else was around." The courts often heard "I don't deserve this, everyone else was doing it, the officer is picking on me" and other statements in the same vein.

I don't like to admit that I am wrong either, but we do have to take ownership of our driving practices and stop justifying our misbehaviour. Even when it is inconvenient we need to do what is right rather than what is expedient. It's probably the best way to keep the highways safer for all of us.

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Justifying our misbehavior

Well said.  No one wants to take responsibility for their actions anymore.  The worst part is we are passing this from generation to generation and you know what happens to snowballs when they go downhill.


I don't see myself as wagging my finger at others. I said that I make mistakes like everyone else, and we need to be accountable for our behaviours. I was looking in the mirror as well as around me when I wrote the article.

Just because the law does not appear to be making a difference doesn't mean that it isn't worthwhile to have. Our laws against murder probably have as much effect on some people (hopefully a very small minority) but I'm not prepared to have our government withdraw them because they are not effective in all cases.

There was a lot of advertising done about texting and driving causing problems before the laws were put into effect. I've thought about it and I can't recall ever seeing one telling people to wait for the red before texting. Even that is not necessarily a good choice, especially if the roads are busy and you now become a roadblock through inattention to your surroundings. There has been lots of advertising and discussion since then and it hasn't seemed to have helped either.

The law does not target the middle class. It is applied equally to the rich and the poor as well. As with all traffic violations, you always have a choice. Do what you are not supposed to and you risk the enforcement action. Don't do it and you won't ever be ticketed for it.

Yes, the use of electronic devices is now widespread in our lives. Ubiquity does not imply permission, not make it right.

I've almost been hit by a woman with one hand on the phone and one hand on the wheel. She didn't have the necessary control that two hands would have given her to turn her car correctly and remain on her side of the road. Good thing that I saw and had room to get out of the way. It's only one experience, but it was enough to convince me that there is a risk.

So, I'm back to the premise of the article and it seems to fit right in with what you appear to be suggesting to me, we are accountable for our behaviour and we need to cultivate a behaviour that keeps everyone safe.


Kudos DriveSmart for handling

Kudos DriveSmart for handling the criticism so elegantly! Level headed, not over-sensitive, very diplomatic mitigation.

The point that prompted me to chime in is:

"I've almost been hit by a woman with one hand on the phone and one hand on the wheel. She didn't have the necessary control that two hands would have given her to turn her car correctly and remain on her side of the road."

You state that the driver came close to hitting you, and avoiding the collision was in part due to your extra attention for your life. You also state that the driver was on the phone and that is the reason that the incident occurred. Good on you for taking your life into your own hands - shifting all responsibility for YOUR life on OTHER people is NOT common-sense, but the political/legislative climate all over North America is heading towards kindergarten.

In my opinion the blame lays with the driver, and not with their cell phone. The driver was not in control, simple as that.
The issue I have with the texting/talking laws is that it infringes on the "common-sense" self regulation each road participant should impose on themselves. In short, if theres a law that legislates responsibility in specific scenarios, it condones a false mental perception of releasing individuals from the "self-responsibility" in other similar scenarios which are not yet explicitly banned. There are many more distractions aside from cellphones that will detract attention from the road therefore increasing risk: Stereo, Navigation, Drinks, Food, Passengers, Pets, Kids, Day Dreaming, Stress, Fatigue, Uncomfortable/Improper seating position, Bill boards, Sneezing, Coughing, Farting, Nose/Ear picking/grooming, Improper foot wear, Medical conditions and Improper state of mind.

Having legislated against cell-phones, the effect in some road users mind is that now all the other distractions are less egregious and/or less risk. That is a big problem in my view - drivers should take personal responsibility to pay attention no matter the distraction. Instituting laws for each specific category of distraction takes away from the perception of risk from the other "distinct" categories of distraction. (Quotes for irony)

Furthermore, relevance of the laws (when they go into the "nitty gritty" - a territory no laws should go into) will be contested psychologically by people's abilities and self-confidence. I had a friend who back in the days of flip phones could send text replies blind - she would carry on hour long conversations with friends, only glancing at their replies for half a second, then continuing studying/grooming/dressing/cleaning. She didn't drive at the time, but if I were to compare to my abilities... well, I know I can't text and drive - it's just the way my brain is. I'm aware of it and I won't do it, because I am not in control of the vehicle when I do.

And thats the gist of the matter - people who have the ability to do something (i.e. ride a unicycle and juggle) will scoff at laws that effectively level their abilities to the lowest common denominator - it only creates disdain and contempt. I believe a pro-driving culture, instilled at the educational level, to be the natural and "easily-digestible" solution.

In my mind, when driving is concerned, it all comes down to there simple factors:
Be aware of the laws of physics
Remain in control at all times
Don't crash

I think the car culture, at least in Vancouver, is getting squashed by the politics, ecology and non-sense, and with all this background noise, the simplicity of driving is being over-thought and needlessly complicated. Too many drivers know the rules, but don't know where their wheels are on the ground.

It's personal responsibility and mechanical dexterity of controlling a car that should be promoted, instead of acknowledging excuses and dignifying them with legislature.

Your article is spot on about stopping justifying ones lapses in judgement and taking ownership for ones actions,
it doesn't matter what causes the mistakes at the wheel, as long as the driver realizes the causes and makes strides to avoid them in the future on the personal-responsible-human level.

Submitted by E-mail

I like to think I am a law abiding citizen and I try hard to follow the rules of the road (at 54, I have not had a ticket yet) when I am behind the wheel. Am I perfect? No, like everyone I have make mistakes. But I am pretty sure I have never had blatent disregard for the laws of the road that I see most days.

The only justification my wife and I can come up with is that there is no traffic enforcement -well at least not in Vancouver, where we live. Sure, there are police vehicles on our streets and there are even police horse patrols, but there really is no police enforcement of the rules of the road. I believe people do stupid stuff on our roads because they truly believe the likehood of getting stopped for an infraction is so miniscule.

While I was driving the distance of 11 km's one day, my wife and her daughter were in the car counting the number of traffic and by-law violations in that distance. On our way they counted 47, on the way home they counted 39. They decided to count because they feel we wouldn't have to toll the bridges in the lower mainland if people were fined for traffic violations -instant revenue source for the Province.

Case in point. I am returning home to the West End well after one of the Celebration of Lights fireworks displays. The West End was now open again to traffic and there was still a fair amount of visitors exiting the West End. The traffic police were still present. As I made a right turn left turn on a green light from Smithe Street onto Thurlow Street, a one way street, I was stopped by a police officer in the crosswalk to allow for and make room for a vehicle coming the wrong way down Thurlow Street. I thought for sure the police were going to write a ticket, perhaps even take a drunk driver off the road, but instead I was forced to move over for the violator.

Any visitor to the West End, my quiet neighbourhood, would be shocked at the number of cars that do not stop for stop signs after dark. As a night time dog walker, I see it all the time. They do it because they know there are no police enforcing the stop sign laws. They simply will not get caught.

The City of Vancouver has created bicycle lanes at great expense and now I see traffic lights popping up at intersections at the bike lanes, yet everyday I see so many cyclist (without helmets) riding on the sidewalks. Why? Because there is no traffic enforcement so they will not be caught.

Our street will only get more dangerous and more people will continue to die needlessly because there is no enforcement. It is my suggestion that the City create a seperate traffic enforcement branch whose revenues could quite easily come from the sheer number of traffic offenders on our streets today. Who knows, maybe we'd even have toll free bridges!

I truly believe the primary justification for misbehaviour is that there is no enforcement. So when a police officer does finally pull someone over for a traffic infraction, it's why the officer hears "I don't deserve this!"

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