Yesterday, while on Facebook I learned of a tragic accident that occurred in my home town. A resident was struck and killed, by a passing motorist in front of his home. He was double parked loading materials into his truck. The cause of the accident has yet to be officially determined but police say, drugs or alcohol did not appear to be a factor, nor was speed. They believe the driver was distracted. Witnesses say she had a phone in her hand at the time of the accident and believe she was text messaging.
Witnesses say the woman told police that she didn’t see the victim, or his truck. A graphic photo taken and posted by the victim’s brother, (which I will not repost) shows how ridiculous that excuse sounds. The residential streets in town are very narrow. Every time I drive through my old neighborhood I marvel that we were ever able to maneuver the tanks-sized cars we drove in the 70s and 80s. It required two hands on the wheel, a foot covering the brake and eyes focused straight ahead. Even then sometimes cars got sideswiped.
Yesterday many adjective came to mind: senseless, avoidable, negligent, stupid. What this event will do, rightfully so, is reinforce the fight against texting and driving. It in fact has been illegal in the state of Illinois since 2010 and the city of Chicago requires hands free devices used for all calls. But everyone knows that establishing the laws is one thing, getting people to follow them is more challenging. I’ve yet to hear of anyone getting pulled over for texting while driving. Part of the problem lies in the fact that we use our cell phones for more than just communication. They are our GPS units and our music storage systems. Traffic would come to a complete standstill if officers pulled over every driver that had a cell phone in his hand. After a traffic accident cell phone records will be scrutinized for evidence of recent texts or calls. Even where talking on the phone while driving is legal, if you’re involved in an accident, you may still be at fault because you were not paying attention to the road.
I believe Public Service Announcements and unfortunately stories such as yesterday does help to reinforce the message. People are beginning to realize that fear of having to pay a fine are the least of their worries. Consider the posted speed limit on expressways, and then measure the average speed most traveling. Tickets don’t work.
While the dangers of texting and driving have received a lot of attention in the past several years, there are more concerns for drivers and pedestrians. All distracted drivers are a danger. Cell phones are not the sole problem. Look around the next time you are on the road. Try to find other drivers who are only driving. The rest are, playing with their phones, their radios, having heated discussions with passengers. They are eating, they are reaching for dropped items. They are looking at their children in the back seat. You’ll see pets riding on drivers’ laps and people reading newspapers and books. There are women applying makeup and painting their nails and men trying to get a quick shave in on the way to the office. Very few people are only driving. We live in a busy world. We think we’ve become masters at multi-tasking. We can do it all while cruising at 80 mph in a construction zone. Until that fateful day when we prove we can’t.
So yes, texting while driving may have been the cause of yesterday’s fatality, but if it wasn’t any number of other distractions could have been. We need to get it through our hard heads that no text message or email is that important that it can’t wait until we stop moving.
I’ve been called senseless and even stupid before but I don’t want to hear those words coming from the mouth of a judge right before sentencing. I certainly don’t want to be behind the wheel in the next senseless traffic fatality that rips apart another family.