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DISTRACTED DRIVING
Story by Lois Grace


As soon as cell phones arrived in our lives, things started happening. It was 1984, and much like George Orwell's prophetic novel the world changed before our very eyes. As a lover of all things vintage, I don't welcome change with open arms. I know it's necessary, and I adapt as best I can to new things and technology but this ability to use a telephone wherever and whenever we chose made me think of all the liabilities attached to this new idea. A very big liability with cell phone use while driving is being distracted: your attention is diverted from the task at hand, and to make matters worse you may be looking at the phone's screen instead of the road. This subject was driven painfully home for me yesterday when our neighbor came around the corner and plowed directly into the rear of our travel trailer parked at the curb. More on that in a minute. But first, let's talk a bit about why this is a problem in the first place.

Cell phones have become such an integral part of modern life that it's now nearly impossible to do business or live without one. You can pay bills on your phone, take pictures with your phone, bank on your phone, access social media on your phone, and any number of other activities I am sure I don't know about. Never in a million years did I ever dream that people would actually want to talk on a phone, while driving. It simply never occurred to me that someone would do such a thing! If you wanted to make a phone call, you found a pay phone and stopped long enough to make the call. With cell phones, there is no need to stop and get out of your car. Wireless earbuds and hands-free technology allowed us to call anyone, any time. But should we? This ability became problematic so quickly that many states enacted legislation to make it illegal to call from your moving vehicle and required drivers to use a hands-free device to dial that call. It is, in my opinion, too little, too late. The genie is out of the bottle and, now freed, is showing he has no intention of being recaptured.

Yesterday afternoon we heard a loud, strange noise in the street so went out to investigate. Our neighbor, on her way home, had turned the corner at the end of our street and, possibly distracted by her cell phone, had crashed into the rear corner of our trailer. She then went on to hit the same rear corner of our next door neighbor's car, breaking the axle, crushing the side, and pushing that car into the car in front of it. Her Mercedes 300 SUV came to rest in the middle of the street with her behind the wheel and enveloped in air bags. Our poor trailer was destroyed and will likely be a total loss. There is no way the damage can be fixed. Our neighbor's car, an older Subaru WRX wagon was also totaled with a possible broken axle and left side body damage. That neighbor told me he'd seen her exit the car with her phone in her hand, sending a text. Now, in all fairness, I did not see that but what would cause someone to hit a trailer and two cars as she drove down her own street to get home? I wondered if she was having a seizure of some sort, or had blacked out. When I asked her what happened, she said she didn't know! She appeared to be dazed but the police that soon arrived tested her on the scene and said she was not under the influence of anything. The enormity of what she'd done was probably sinking in. I think she knows perfectly well what the cause of all this was, and she was not about to admit it to any of us.

Studies done have shown that cell phone use while driving is nearly as bad as driving drunk, and in some cases, worse. We now have cars that will drive themselves and park themselves. We have systems in place that tell us where we are and where we are going. We have cameras on the back so we don't hit anything. Throw the distraction of a ringing phone into this mix and you have a perfect storm. How about we all just get back to doing what we are supposed to do while driving: operating a machine! Cars are machines that are capable of killing, a fact illustrated every day in horrific fashion. Let's bring back good old-fashioned Driver's Ed, classes where you actually learned something from teachers who are above average in skills, and certified to teach. Let's raise the penalties for distracted driving, and ENFORCE the laws already in place. Instead of our trailer parked at the curb, what if it was a kid on a tricycle........or one of us out to get the mail (our mailbox is at that curb, next to our trailer).......or an elderly person in a walker on the sidewalk. Instead of ruining 2 cars and a camper, she could have killed someone. And has all this technology really made us better drivers, or the world a better place? I think not. I have not researched the subject and there is not room here for a debate. My opinion is that the world is just as hazardous as before, but with new and different hazards. And now, the added danger of drivers not actually DRIVING.


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