So where was I? Oh, right. In my column two weeks ago I opened up the whole driving-while-talking-on-a-handheld-wireless-phone can of worms. Since then, it seems that things have gotten worse. Now, apparently, you don’t even need a car to be a dangerous cellphone user.
A few days ago I was driving down my long driveway (several homes share the same driveway) and I stopped at the street to let a mom pushing a baby in a stroller pass by. Another young child toddled along beside the stroller. This kid heard my truck coming down the driveway and made eye contact with me. He instinctively hesitated before crossing my path, tugging at his mother’s sweat pants to alert her to my presence.
I stopped to let them pass, or course. But even with her son yanking on her pants to get her attention, she didn’t have a clue I was there. Of course not. Because while she pushed the stroller with one hand, she was otherwise 100% engaged in reading and sending text messages on her Blackberry or iPhone or whatever beloved device was cradled oh-so-carefully in her other hand. She was so distracted that she didn’t look away from her precious wireless device until she was almost past the grill of my truck.
So apparently now we can’t even “drive” a stroller without worshipping at the temple of multitasking technology. Scary stuff. Especially since recent studies show that there is 37% less activity in the area of the brain tasked with driving when someone is using a cellphone. The same studies liken using a phone while driving as being equivalent to driving while being two to three times over the legal limit for being drunk. That ain’t just distracted, friends. That’s idiotic. What semi-responsible person would consider knocking back four or five shots of booze, then grabbing his keys and hopping in the car for a drive? And yet, we do worse than that by using that wireless device while behind the wheel.
I’ve received more comments from readers since my first column appeared on this topic earlier this month than from any of my nearly 150 other columns. I’m not surprised. People are frightened. They’re frustrated. And they’re angry at the reckless drivers who insist on texting or talking on the phone while they pilot thousands of pounds of death-on-wheels around the same streets our family members and friends use every day.
As long as I’m taking batting practice at hornet’s nests, I have to say that I’m not that impressed with all the drivers out there with those goofy Bluetooth thing-a-ma-bobs dangling off their ears so they can careen down the highway while endlessly talking “hands free.” It might make it legal, but it doesn’t make it smart. Also, just between you and me, it also doesn’t look cool or high tech. It looks dorky. And deadly.
I’m baffled as to why as a society we so readily accept this relatively new and ridiculously dangerous practice. We’ve even come up with a nice, safe, inoffensive term for the practice: “Driving While Distracted,” or DWD. Ah, isn’t that nice? Oops, did I just mow down that nice young couple in the crosswalk? So sorry, I was “distracted.” Not reckless. Not stupid or careless. Nope. That’s far too judgmental. Distracted has a much nicer, more innocent, ring to it. Unfortunately, people wind up just as dead.
But maybe things have reached a tipping point. I mean, if even Queen Oprah has become a champion of not using cellphones while driving, as evidenced by her splashy new “No Phone Zone” campaign, it surely won’t be long before Deepak Chopra, Marlo Thomas or Michael J. Fox – heck, maybe even that global guardian of all things wise and good, Al Gore himself, will take up the cause. Yeah, that would turn things around.
I’ll see you ‘round town.
Editor’s Note: For those not text-saavy, the title of Jim’s column translates to If you are reading this and driving please stop.
Jim Chase is a lifelong CV resident and freelance writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.