At night, it’s not the faint glow of the phone screen that betrays you. It’s the same thing that gives you away during the day… the loss of lane control, variable speed reductions and increases, and failure to behave appropriately at signalized intersections. It’s the head-bobbing as you look up for a second then down in your lap for up to 23 seconds, then back up for one second, continuing this deadly dance for what feels like forever as others look on in horror.
I also stare at you in incredulity and utter disdain. But you … you don’t even notice that people all around you are disgusted by your selfish driving while texting and obvious disregard for their personal safety.
I recently had the extreme displeasure of sharing the road with literally dozens of you at the same time. I survived the experience, but that fact should not be considered an endorsement of your asinine and highly dangerous driving habits.
I had this “Captain Obvious” experience as I drove from Oakland to San Diego. The reason I was in the Bay Area was for my great nephew’s 16th birthday. Zachary Michael Cruz was not at his own birthday party, but it was very important that I be there to support his father at this milestone event.
Zachary was killed in a Berkeley crosswalk by a distracted driver just over 10 years ago. Three days after his dad’s birthday, and two-weeks before his own sixth birthday. Since Zachary’s death, more than 45,000 pedestrians have died on American roadways.
As if that is not a sobering enough statistic, according to Safer America, worldwide “nearly 1.25 million people die in road crashes each year, or on average 3,287 deaths a day. An additional 20 to 50 million are injured or disabled.” In the US, “every day, about nine people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes involving a distracted driver.” That figure is based on people who admit to driving distracted, so I suspect this statistic is somewhat understated.
So, with these verifiable facts, I am generally dumbfounded when everywhere I look, I see dumb people driving cars with their eyes glued to a “smartphone” screen. The irony is crushing!
A 2016 Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) study, (“Driver Crash Risk Factors and Prevalence Evaluation Using Naturalistic Driving Data”) estimates that 36 percent of crashes could be avoided if distraction was not present. Cell phone use leads to visual-manual distraction, requiring drivers to take their eyes off the road, and cognitive distraction, requiring drivers to focus their attention on tasks not related to driving. These tasks include dialing, talking, texting, reaching for the phone and browsing.
I’m not even talking about the people who use hands-free or onboard devices to communicate while driving. Asking Siri to text your mom, or give you directions to the nearest gas station is one thing. In fact, VTTI studies have found that in some circumstances talking on hands-free devices while driving can actually keep drivers more alert and help avoid drowsy-driver accidents.
But taking selfies from the driver’s seat or using a handholding a phone to flag me into the lane in front of you is another thing entirely. Both of these things actually happened during my recent California road trip.
I was never able to make eye contact with the selfie driver, because she never pulled her head out of her own ass long enough to look around at her surroundings. The twentysomething phone-flagger did look up and saw me. I stared at her in disbelief and mouthed “Put that effing thing down!” clearly referring to her cell phone, on which she had been texting madly mere seconds before using it to let me know it was “safe” for me to pull in front of her. She shook her head at me and continued texting as she passed.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, texting drivers make me really angry. If it were only their own lives they were putting at risk I’d say, “Let Darwin do his thing.” But they put the lives of everyone around them at risk — and for what?
When you are driving, there is absolutely nothing more important for you to do than pay attention to the task of driving. When you are text-driving, you are breaking the law. You are NOT good at it, and you are beyond obvious. If you are lucky enough to not kill yourself or someone else, and if you decide to pull your head out of your behind and look around, you might notice people in your general vicinity looking at you like you are a self-absorbed, uncaring and unfeeling jerk.
And you know what, Captain Obvious? They’d be right!