Several years ago my wife and I decided to take a mini-vacation by car to Fort Worth to see a museum exhibit of Egyptian artifacts, and it was fun. We stayed overnight, saw the exhibit and set off for home in the late afternoon. As I recall, it was Sunday, and thinking traffic would be light I decided to return going first East and then North through Dallas. Traffic was initially heavy, and then after passing the exits for downtown it thinned out. In fact, it thinned out so much that we felt we were almost alone on the interstate. We were doing 65 or 70 and I was just pointing out something interesting on the skyline to Mollie. My eyes hadn’t been off the road more than one second, I swear, and when I glanced back ahead I saw three lanes of traffic. Stopped. Dead, just like we were about to be.
Our car then was a Honda Accord sedan, and it had ABS. I stood on the brakes as the pedal chattered. Something in the back of my mind said, “so that’s what ABS feels like.” It seemed to happen in slow motion – I knew we were going to die. But while breaking I also steered left into the median. We probably only traveled a hundred feet or so on the grass before coming to a stop about even with the last cars in the backup. I’m here to tell you, ABS works!
Since that episode I have become a better driver. I never use my cell phone while driving, not even on speaker nor on our bluetooth, hands-off sound system, which our present car has, and I consciously avoid distractions. Ever since that day there’s a new little voice in my psyche that tells me about it. So I found it interesting when another aspect of distracted driving came up last week.
Is there anybody over 10 and still on the outside a nursing home who doesn’t have a cell phone? Can’t be many, so I’m guessing that all readers must have seen the AP article about the NTSB’s latest recommendation about them. In case you didn’t know, it explained this about the NTSB:
The National Transportation Safety Board declared Tuesday that texting, emailing or chatting while driving is just too dangerous to be allowed anywhere in the United States. It urged all states to impose total bans except for emergencies.
The NTSB, an independent agency that investigates accidents and makes safety recommendations, doesn’t have the power to impose regulations or make grants. But its suggestions carry significant weight with lawmakers and regulators.
Completely banning cell phones from cars would be strong medicine.
Some people’s reaction, I’m sure, is “What’s the difference between talking on a cell phone and just talking to your passengers? But a moment’s reflection ought to give you the answer to that. The passenger can (usually) see where you are and take the traffic situation into account, pacing the conversation accordingly. (Unless you’re both looking at the sights, of course.) The person on the other end of the phone hasn’t a clue about that semi stopped ahead of you.
A total ban on drivers using cell phones isn’t going to happen. After all, this is a nation ruled under the Tyranny of the Majority, so I’ll bet you 10,000 rasputnicks on that. Anyone? Didn’t think so. The darn things are ubiquitous of course, and have become vital to many business people including traveling salespersons, realtors, inspectors, delivery people, plumbers. Never mind, it would be easier to list those who don’t rely on them. Oops. Can’t think of any.
So, what to do? My favorite newspaper, USA Today has the best editorial take on it in my opinion. Here’s what they recommend:
Alternatives to a nationwide ban include:
•Prohibiting cellphone use for new drivers and bus drivers (except in emergencies). This makes sense because of the inexperience of young drivers and the responsibilities of transit workers.
•Creating campaigns — like those that have worked to reduce drunken driving and get millions to routinely buckle up — to make it less socially acceptable to talk and text while driving.
•Vigorously enforcing laws already on the books against reckless and inattentive driving, whatever the cause.
And to that list I have one other recommendation for those who aren’t already convinced. Take a trip to Ft. Worth. And be sure to go through downtown Dallas. If you live, you’ll be convinced too.