Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Improving the news, and entrapment.

As of today, there is a new law in Washington State, described as the Driving While Texting (DWT) law. Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for this law. Not long ago I was held up in a 90 minute traffic jam as a result of an accident on the express way caused by a guy composing an email on his blackberry.

The news reports all describe it as the Driving While Texting law. In fact nearly all the major local news outlets used the SAME TEXT from AP when reporting the story. And none included a link to the ACTUAL LAW.

Why has news reporting become so canned? Do reporters really put that little effort into their jobs? And why not link to the real law? HTML makes this so easy, even I can do it.

And the new law is MUCH different than the news report. According to the law, a driver can be cited for:

operating a motor vehicle while reading, writing, or sending electronic messages ... operating a moving motor vehicle who, by means of an electronic wireless communications device, other than a voice-activated global positioning or navigation system that is permanently affixed to the vehicle, sends, reads, or writes a text message, is guilty of a traffic infraction.

What is a text message? Is a series of letters a message? Most certainly -- reading a text message would be a violation. Is a picture a message? It could be, if it were a picture of a series of letters. What if the series of letters were the name of a road or city, like on a Garmin GPS? Use of this device in a moving vehicle is now clearly banned by RCW.

But more troubling, how about the Washington State Department of Transportation web pages that are INTENDED to be used by wireless devices? If I use this web page on my cell phone while driving, it looks to me like I am breaking the law. Is the state providing the technology to enable the violation of the law?

Looks like entrapment to me.