I know you’re out there. I’ve seen you on Foothill Boulevard. And Honolulu Avenue. And Verdugo, Ramsdell, La Crescenta, and Ocean View. I’ve seen you on just about every street in town, in fact. Who are you? You’re the in-a-hurry, Abercrombie-attired guy who almost killed me – literally almost killed me – on Descanso Drive, thank you very much. I was riding my bike, obeying traffic laws, and you pulled out in front of me from a side street without blinking an eye. Oh, you saw me. We even made eye contact. But you were so deep in conversation on the cell phone in your hand, you pulled out anyway. Trust me, you would have noticed had I not grabbed two handfuls of brake lever and instead smashed through your side window at 32 mph.
You’re the lady I watched laughing and throwing your head back as you held a phone to your ear and cut off a mom pushing her child in a stroller across Pennsylvania Avenue just the other day. Thankfully, the mom saw that you were completely, utterly, lethally unaware that she and her baby were in the crosswalk and yanked her stroller back as your 4,000 pound SUV passed a few inches away.
Not to belabor the point, but you’re the moms and uncles and siblings and students I see all too often when I’m picking up my son from Crescenta Valley High. Almost a day doesn’t go by that you don’t come close to mowing down a sophomore here, a freshman there. Here a junior, there a junior, everywhere a senior.
Can I ask you something? What’s so blasted important about your conversation with your spouse, girlfriend, parent, kid, best friend or co-worker – that you would willingly, repeatedly put someone else’s spouse, girlfriend, parent, kid, best friend or co-worker at risk with your incredibly selfish and dangerous habit? nd does it matter at all that there’s a law (granted, a laughably weak and fatally ineffective law) against driving while using a handheld cell phone? Apparently not. Twice already this year I thought I’d seen you break the law – once as a CHP officer and once an L.A. County Sheriff’s deputy. I’ve since been informed that this particular law doesn’t apply to those professions. By the way you both were driving, however, it should.
Now, I’m probably the last guy to support so-called “nanny state” laws and regulations that – while enacted with all good intentions – only serve to further restrict our freedoms. I think those hysterically health-conscious Santa Clara county officials that just passed a law banning toys in McDonalds’ Happy Meals should be chased out of town by liberty loving citizens wielding flaming Big Macs and Filet o’ Fish sandwiches. Shame on them.
As one who loves motorcycles, I complained loudly and often when the California helmet law went into effect. I still ride without one when I’m in a state that allows it. But it’s my life, and doing so doesn’t endanger anyone else.
There’s no denying that seatbelt laws have saved countless lives. I’m thankful my kids grew up having learned to automatically put on their seatbelt whenever they get into a car. When I was a child, seatbelts were a novelty, so I still have to remind myself to buckle up. But I have a few otherwise sensible adult friends who still rail against that law when driving alone, even though they’ve received enough tickets to make their behavior financially painful. And yet, by not wearing a seatbelt they’re not going to endanger other drivers, cyclists or pedestrians.
As often happens, I’ve run out of space before I’ve run out of thoughts on this subject. So let’s pick this back up where we left off next week. In the meantime, the next time you’re behind the wheel, please – I beg of you – think about whether that call you want to make or text you need to send is more important than someone’s life.
I’ll see you ‘round town.
Jim Chase is a lifelong CV resident and freelance writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.