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The deep, black hole of responsibility

The Hamilton Spectator
(Jul 21, 2009)

Have you ever heard people complain when the government introduces a new law to protect society from itself? Laws for bicycle helmets or hands-free cellphones while driving make some feel like they are being treated like children.

The sad truth is after you read this column you'll wonder why they let us do anything other than sleep naked in the fetal position. Some of us are just plain stupid.

Come this fall the Ontario government will start enforcing Bill 118, the Ontario Hands Free Law. It says you cannot use your cellphone unless you have a hands-free device that enables you to keep both hands on the wheel. This also includes devices such as iPods and BlackBerrys.

The problem is by the time this becomes law, technology has presented us with a whole new set of other techno-related problems that seem to have us just as distracted and can be just as dangerous.

iPods are no different than cellphones in cars, experts say. iPods can go anywhere the cord can reach, including the next seat and even the floor. A vehicle radio has buttons that are designed for drivers with controls in the dash or steering wheel. iPods (now with a small screen) were not designed for driving. They were designed for entertainment and leisure time.

Forget the car, all you have to do is search "texting accidents" on the web and you'll find a list as long as your leg telling stories of texting mishaps. Emergency room doctors in the U.S. report everything from scraped faces, chins, and broken noses to even death, as more than one person has walked off a curb and into the path of a car while texting.

These types of incidents are increasing, including injury while texting and walking, riding a bike, riding a horse, inline skating, crossing city streets, walking into telephone poles and even serious burns texting while cooking over a hot stove.

Where's the common sense? Maybe we can text someone to find out?

However, the best story I have heard so far is the tale of poor Alexa Longueira from New York's Staten Island. It seems the 15-year-old was walking home so engrossed in her texting she failed to see the manhole in the ground in front of her. The problem was city workers had removed the manhole cover seconds before and were on their way to get orange traffic cones to warn of impending danger, but before they could do so little Miss Longueira was falling to China.

Lucky for her, the two-metre drop didn't bruise much other than her ego, although she did lose a shoe in the dive.

What makes you shake your head is that she claimed no responsibility for her actions, and is going to sue the city for damages.

Now I agree the city worker should not have left the cover off the manhole, and should be held responsible for damages, but isn't the girl also to blame?

Instead, she claimed the cone should have been there before the manhole cover was removed. "I'm going to see a big orange cone," she said.

You can't see a metre-size hole in the ground in front of you, how are you going to see a traffic cone?!

Chances are if a traffic cone was there she would have tripped over it and gone into the hole head first, and had a real problem.

The video news clip of this fall is on my blog dated 07/13/09 at or on the Scott Thompson page at

Feel free to watch it and tell me if you think this person has learned anything.

Do we need "protect society from itself" laws?

It's not just about protecting us from ourselves. It's the province (or city) protecting itself from the likes of Alexa Longueira.

People who would rather sue than accept responsibility for their own actions.

By the way, remember when some said seatbelt laws were silly?

The Scott Thompson Show airs weekdays from 4-7 p.m. on News/Talk 900 CHML. Visit his website,