It is funny how the same subject keeps coming up, but in a slightly different context. In this column I’ve discussed distracted driving because it is very dangerous to all concerned.
Now, the focus has shifted to the federal government supporting the elimination of cell phone use in vehicles, except when they are stopped or in an emergency situation.
Talk about stirring up a hornet’s nest. The blogosphere and letters to newspapers have been circling like a tornado, and, as usual, there are strong feelings on both sides.
From the perspective of an average driver…let’s say me…we are back to the much bigger issue of all manner of distracted driving. Here are just some of the most often seen on the roadways:
• The driver and one or more passengers are in conversations
• The driver switches radio stations or changes CD’s
• The driver watches a GPS device to find a location even when there is audio available
• Personal grooming activities while driving: make-up, hair, applying nail polish (don’t laugh, it happens)
• Keeping an eye on a pet in the vehicle, much less having a pet in the driver’s lap
• The driver drops something on floor of the vehicle and attempts to pick it up while driving
• Couples involved in a knockdown, drag-out argument while driving
• Of course, we won’t forget talking on a cell phone or texting while driving
From this average driver’s standpoint, there are so many distractions that singling out cell phone use is likely to create major conflict. Certainly, some local governments have passed ordinances to prohibit their use by a driver, but a total ban may take some doing.
Better in the short term, drivers must come to the realization that as boring as it sounds, driving a motor vehicle is a full-time job. What happens when it isn’t? Drivers doze off and crash, or a driver bends over to pick up a dropped item followed by a deadly crash. Sure, it’s possible to drive, eat a sandwich and change stations the radio all at the same time, but as the comedienne Joan Rivers said for years, “Grow up!”
When we drive alone, there’s no one to count on for a little friendly advice like, “Pay attention to the road!”
When there are others in the vehicle they can be a big part of the problem instead of the solution.
Overall, I have no special claim on being the perfect driver, because I have to acknowledge fault in a few of the aforementioned bullet points. Fewer traffic crashes would benefit motorists financially; other victims of a traffic crash from an injury standpoint; insurers and their policyholders.
Where it starts is in the driver’s seat. Do I have to take that incoming call? Not really. That’s why there’s voice mail. Do I have to eat and drive? No. I can take a few minutes and eat in the parking lot of the drive-through instead of getting on the road to cram down the burger, fries and the soda.
When you look around and realize that the consequences of being the at-fault driver can be very serious, or that not seeing the trouble that just occurred ahead and plowing into someone else’s mess can be big trouble for you, too, it seems we might want to step back and look twice at how we drive.
It’s not just someone else’s problem. We all have a stake in this one, so for this average driver - I’ve got work to do, or perhaps a few less things to do when I drive. Let’s all be much more careful out there.