Monday, September 18, 2017

WHEN not IF

As I followed the fellow swerving onto the shoulder and across the center line driving 15 miles under the speed limit which was only 35 mph, it seemed like an excessive amount of caution for a mid afternoon drive across town with the kids still in school and most people still at work. I had an epiphany of sorts. Two decades ago, I would have assumed the fellow had an all night bender and was drunk driving. It wasn't a rare event but it didn't happen too often. I remember a time when I followed a fellow five miles who kept swerving from one ditch to the other ditch. Lucky for him they were very shallow ditches and we met no oncoming traffic on his way into town where he finally made it up a side street. These days, I would have called on my cellphone and had the police waiting for him upon his arrival.

Times have certainly changed. The swerving and very slowly driving fellow I was following wasn't drunk. I knew that because I could see the cellphone held up to his ear the entire way into downtown. By my count, he committed four traffic violations by failing to use his turn signal and caused one other driver to slam on their brakes hard when he started to proceed from a stop sign into the path of an oncoming car. He also figured it out and hit his brakes three feet into the intersection.

On my way back to the edge of town, I fell in behind another car also driving slowly and failing to use any turn signals because, you guessed it, I could see the phone held up to their ear. Up ahead, a car was coming down a side street, drove through the stop sign by ten feet and ended up with her bumper two feet into our lane. The car ahead of me still yakking on their cellphone never noticed. I however did and slowed down because there was oncoming traffic and it was a tight squeeze now that my lane had been reduced by two feet. As I slowly went by, the young lady in the car was looking towards the direction I was heading and of course talking on a cellphone. Just as I was directly in front of her, she hit the gas and started going, assuming without looking that I was already past her. I wasn't. I saw the car coming out of my peripheral vision and hit the gas while she finally saw me blocking her entire windshield and hit the brakes. I waited for impact but it never came. She must have missed me by inches.

What gets me is that I see this kind of thing DAILY. It isn't a rare event like seeing a drunk driver of decades past. The streets have become a jungle. Our state finally took a stand enacting a new law this summer than bans texting or use of social media while driving but unfortunately doesn't ban the use of calling or talking to someone while driving. It worries me because there isn't a lot I can do to defend myself. I already assume that anyone at an intersection can turn in any direction because most people don't use turn signals, impaired by cellphones or not. The only way I can prepare is to make sure I have good insurance to take care of me WHEN someone yakking on a cellphone plows into me, not IF. I often wish people used more common sense and this is another one of those cases.

8 comments:

Kelly said...

Distracted driving has become an epidemic. It's not just folks on phones, either... people eat, drink, fiddle with the radio (whether on their steering wheel, dash, or phone/bluetooth), put on makeup, look at things outside other than the road,and plenty more. I even believe hands-free talking is distracting. Our brains can only process so many things at a time and I'm not sure I think people can truly multitask. I've been talking to folks before when they just stopped talking because they're had to think about what they were doing rather than talking - and that doesn't matter whether the phone is pressed against the ear or just sound from a speaker.

Now that I've said all that, I'll admit I'm guilty of talking and driving at time.

And at the risk of being inflammatory, I have a shirt (that I rarely wear, much less out of my home) which says "Guns don't kill people, drivers with cellphone do".

Susan said...

Our state bans cell phones and all electronic devices - but you can use a blue tooth. I agree with Kelly, any distraction is an accident waiting to happen. Even with the law, almost every other car I see has a nimrod with a phone plastered to their ear. Or they are driving while staring at their lap, texting. I wouldn't mind emptying the shallow end of the gene pool if it didn't also involve innocent bystanders/drivers. And why is it that people no longer use their turn signals? It happens here, too - or they put them on as they are well into the turn.

Kelly said...

While we're on the topic, I'd like to add one more distraction that always irritates me to see - drivers with a dog sitting in their lap! Dog's (any pets) should never be loose in a vehicle! (and I see where I omitted ending two words with the necessary "s" in my first comment...)

Kelly said...

Argh! That should be "dogs"... NOT "dog's". (I obviously don't do well proofing before hitting 'publish')

Ed said...

Kelly - All this leads to another question, are our lives so important that we can't go the 10 minutes it takes to drive across town without answering that call?

Susan - Unfortunately our laws still allow cellphone calls with the phone held up to your ear while moving. I can't see any reason why we just couldn't ban the use of them altogether.

Kelly - I don't worry about grammar so much on my blog. I much more enjoy a rational well thought out dialog than a perfectly punctuated post. Of course, I make a lot of mistakes too that I often don't catch until way too late.

Bob said...

More important than ever to stay as alert as possible. I get distracted when I have passengers, as has been pointed out to me by my family, so I'm working on it. I never text while driving and only occasionally talk on the phone, briefly and always hands free.

I must say I was equally disturbed by Kelly's apparent misuse of an apostrophe as I was by what you described in your post, so I was relieved to see her immediate clarification! 😆

Ed said...

Bob - I'm certainly not immune myself and have gotten distracted over the years. Fortunately, I rarely get phone calls of any kind so on the rare occasion I get one while driving, I almost always just have my wife answer it.

sage said...

In many states you have to use hand-free devices now and can be ticketed for having a cell phone in your hands. And I'm sure the danger is just as great as with drunk driving. Two years ago there was a high school girl driving and texting, who blew through a 4 way stop and killed a man. That's a lot of guilt to live with for a lifetime.