Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cell phone use while driving should earn you a different type of cell - a jail cell

I was talking among a group of people lately and the subject of cell phone use while driving came up. I was astounded by some of the things I heard.

First of all, I have to say that I consider cell phone use while driving, including phone calls and texting, to be right up there on an equal footing as drunk driving. In fact, I think there is a valid argument to be made that it is worse than drunk driving. A drunk who makes the decision to get behind a wheel and drive is making that decision through an alcohol-induced fog. The person who decides to answer a hand-held cell phone or send and receive text messages while driving, makes his or her decision while in full control of their faculties, stone cold sober and is therefore more culpable, to my way of thinking.

In my 33 years of driving, I have seen only one obviously drunk driver. That was in northern Alberta. Other than on that one occasion, I can honestly say that I may have seen one or two over the years who gave me suspicion that they were driving under the influence, but definitely no more than that. I’m not a cop. I do not know the subtle signs. I do know weaving in and out of a lane when I see it, and I just never see it.

Different story when it comes to cell phone use. On that score, I can honestly say that I see it every single day. Every single day I drive past or alongside someone who is as unsafe as someone who is driving while impaired. They come swooping through intersections, crossing lanes, braking unnecessarily, erratically and frequently, not going on green lights, stopping halfway through intersections on red lights, and so on.

I can’t remember exactly where it was that my sister and I were driving just the other day, but a car came out of a side street, braking at the very last moment for the stop sign. I swerved to avoid her because I thought she was coming right into the passenger door. My sister, who was the passenger and able to look closely told me that missus was on her cell phone. Wonderful, just wonderful.

I was driving across the Parkway just last Thursday when a woman ahead of me was driving in an odd manner. I could see her holding her phone to her ear. When I got next to her at a red light, I made a very obvious hand signal to her, (no, not THAT one!!), indicating that she should hang up her phone. She did a double-take, not realizing in the way that only oblivious idiots don’t realize, that people can see her when she’s on the phone!!

Unlike singing along to the car radio loud as you like where no one can hear you, everybody can see when you’re on your phone.

I heard on the news just recently that the RNC have ghost cars out and about with officers armed with cameras to photograph cell phone users and get their license numbers. PERFECT. I wish the general public could be given the authority to take their cameras and rat these idiots out, because I would eliminate the provincial debt within the week with the tickets I could write.

At the very beginning of this post, I said I was astounded by some of the things I heard during a conversation with some people about this.

Some thought drunk driving was way worse. I can understand that people would say that. It gets so much press, and has been around for so much longer, plus there is the added benefit of being able to know right on the spot if someone is drunk, by way of a breathalyser test.

If someone has an accident while texting, there’s no way of knowing it unless the police subpoena the person’s cell phone records. Not the same instant gratification for the writers of news stories, unfortunately. By the time this has been determined, the story is old news. But don’t kid yourself… the damage done is just as horrible if it’s caused by booze, or an ill-timed “LOL” text message.

The other thing that someone said was how annoying it is to have people pull over to the side of the road suddenly to answer a cell phone call. Duh… wha????

First of all, if I’m behind a car that pulls over suddenly, I’m LONG past it before a cell phone is taken out, so how, exactly, is this person making the determination that this was what was happening? There are a hundred things that could happen to cause a driver to have to pull over suddenly - a dropped cigarette, a mechanical problem, a choking child, a leg cramp, driver illness, passenger delivering a baby, whatever!! If a person needs to pull over, they need to pull over, and the onus is on me to be driving in a safe enough manner to not be an impediment or danger to him.

Secondly… even if the person does pull off the road suddenly because there is a ringing phone that needs to be answered, pulling over before answering is EXACTLY the right thing to do. I cannot think of a single circumstance where this is the wrong thing to do, can you? If you can, PLEASE leave a comment below. I really want to know. And I will prove you wrong in 20 words or less, I promise. I drive in and out the Ring Road frequently, and every time I see someone on the side of the road, talking on a cell phone, I always think to myself, "Now there's a rare, smart, responsible driver. There's not many like you, pal."

This same person then said it was less dangerous to just pick up the phone, answer it, have the brief conversation with the child, and carry on driving. Again, I say, “Duh…wha????”

How does this person know that the phone call is just one of the kids saying “I’m home”? How does this person know that the phone call is NOT the kid saying, “The house is on fire”? This would be a tad distracting to any driver, and be more than a brief conversation, I’m thinking. What if the babysitter chooses that moment to call to say the ambulance is on the way? Is the person who receives that cell phone call, while hauling ass down the Ring Road, a safe driver? It’s a wheeled lunatic-induced-accident-in-the-making is what it is.

These were not stupid people making these comments. That’s what shocked me about this. There are supposedly intelligent people out there who think that it is safer to cell and drive than to pull over. I can’t fathom that, at all.

I was involved in a minor rear-end accident in mid-December – NOT my fault, I hasten to add. The person who struck me was ever so pleasant about the whole thing, and didn’t give me a moment’s grief at all, unlike other similar experiences I’ve had. She was remarkably cooperative and agreeable and easy to get along with, to the point that I have a real hunch that if her cell phone records were examined, it would show she was on the phone when she ran into me. I really believe that to be true. She didn’t have a ‘land line’ phone in her home, all she had was her cell phone, so I imagine she’s never too far away from it.

All of which has made me come to the conclusion that if I’m ever in an accident where the offending party gives me any static whatsoever, or the insurance companies get involved, I will be requesting of whomever it is you request such things from that a cell phone record check be done, to rule that out as a causative factor. After all, there are people out there who believe they’re perfectly safe answering a cell phone when they’re driving, and it is my personal belief, based on countless observations, that there are far more dangerous drivers with a cell phone in their hands than there are intoxicated drivers. Way more. Scary, scary thought.

I have always said that drunk drivers should be treated in the courts with at least as aggressive sentences as out-of-season moose hunters, i.e. they lose the guns, the truck, the ATV, the trailer, etc, etc, etc aside from getting jail time. The same should be the case for cell phone user / drivers who injure or kill someone or even just cause an accident. Confiscate the phone and the car for a month, then a year, then 10 years. If you can't drive safely, you should not be allowed to drive. It’s a privilege to own a phone and be able to drive, not a right. Your reckless use of those privileges should not be the cause of injury or death for me or a loved one.

Put the stupid phone away, turned off, while driving. Let the call go to voice mail. How important are you, anyway? Even if you’re waiting for a call about an organ donation, you can still take the time to pull off the road. A new organ won’t be any good to you if you’re dead. And, I’d hate to think someone donated a heart to someone who’s going to use it in prison for the next 10 years after committing vehicular manslaughter.

Wise up, for God’s sake. What a stupid way to die, or to kill someone else. And in the meantime, my sincerest wishes for good luck and good hunting to those police officers who are doing their best to try to catch some of these idiots, and teach them the error of their ways.


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