Alt-Weekly Reporter Pens Dumbfounding Defense of Texting While Driving

The LA Weekly Web item, by staff writer Hillel Aron, is headlined: “Yes, I Text and Drive. No, I’m Not Sorry.” After reading it in full, twice, we’re sad to say that it has no redeeming value. From the top of page 2:

That’s why I text.

Sure, it’s illegal, but you get the sense that it’s harder to spot from a cop car, especially if you hold the phone in your lap (of course that makes it much more dangerous, since your eyes are further away from the road, but what can you do?). If a cop does pull you over, you can always lie and say you were getting directions.

The article arrives a week after the Los Angeles Police Department, California Highway Patrol and other California law enforcement agencies completed a Distracted Driving Awareness Month campaign. Members of these groups will likely be as dumbfounded by the article as many of the readers chiming in so far.

Given the solid track record of reporter Aron and the nimble abilities of his EIC Sarah Fenske, we wondered what the thinking was here. Fenske, in the midst of a major next-issue deadline, was kind enough to give us the following statement via email.

“When Hillel pitched this idea at our news blog meeting, it’s fair to say several jaws dropped. (Personally, as a chronic speeder, I consider any driver meandering along, texting, while I’m trying to get somewhere fast to be a mortal enemy.) But it was very clear to all of us as we chewed it over that he was only admitting to something that a vast majority of LA drivers do with impunity.”

“I suspect that at least half the commenters shaking their fist in his direction will send a text, or check their phones, or Tweet something, on their way home tonight. Everyone’s outraged about it; at least on the roads I’m driving, everyone’s still doing it.”

“And behind all the provocative rhetoric, he does make one good point: Distracted driving has long been illegal. As it should be. Texters are not necessarily any worse than the drivers putting on makeup, or eating breakfast. Yet texting is what we get wound up about (as, yes, this story proves!)”

Evidently, the article as-conceived was better than the article as-published. A problem compounded by a tone that comes across as flippant.

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