Efforts to ban texting while driving and even the bans themselves don’t work. Heartfelt pleas from heartbroken parents whose children have died while driving and texting while in traffic don’t work. So maybe putting up billboards with pictures of drivers who are caught driving while texting while in traffic will work. At least, that’s the hope of Brian Singer, the founder of the TWIT Spotting site.
The original idea for the TWIT Spotting site (TWIT standing for Texting While in Traffic) was for people to take pictures of drivers who are texting while behind the wheel, and submit them to the site. A sort of Damn You Autocorrect site, only it’s a Damn You Auto-driving Idiot site.
So far, the site, which only went live last month, has a couple of dozen images, and those images have aggregated over 300 likes, and many comments.
Interestingly, many of the comments are on photos where it isn’t clear whether the driver in the photo is even in a moving car, and most of those comments are pointing that out, or otherwise dissing the site.
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The images where it is clear that the car is moving – and that the driver has their eyes on their phone instead of the road – have few, if any, comments.
Says Singer, in an interview with Gizmodo, “I’ve been blown away by the number of people texting while in traffic, on the freeway. For every nose picker, there’s 20 texters,” adding that that statistic is an “Unofficial estimation by me.”
In any event, now Singer is taking it to the next level. He has leased several billboards in the Bay area (eleven at last count) on which he is displaying an enormous, blown-up version of some of the submitted photos.
Many are lauding this as a creative way to address the issue. But others express serious privacy concerns.
Singer believes that people on the open highway, or otherwise in public, in their car, don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy. While the Supreme Court has held that “One has a lesser expectation of privacy in a motor vehicle” (than in a home), these cases typically have to do with searches, not one’s image being used without permission.
However, the torts of misappropriation of likeness, and violation of the right to publicity, might at least get one of these shamed drivers into court. On the other hand, they will be arguing about the photographic evidence of their breaking the law. Also, it has been held that the use of someone’s likeness for a public interest purpose is legally ok, although that has typically been applied to someone with celebrity status.
“My hope,” explains Singer, “is that it will freak some people out and make them think twice before picking up the phone while driving. My greater hope is that it inspires others to start taking photos, too. If enough people started doing this, it could have a dramatic affect on people’s behavior.”