Since the mainstream adoption of cell phones, in particular today’s ubiquitous “smart phone”, people can’t seem to keep their eyes off their phone while driving. The increase of related car crashes due to use of technology while driving has necessitated the creation of so-called “distracted driving laws”. The question still remains: are they too intrusive? Are they too lenient? Do they cover enough aspects of “distraction”?
All states have some kind of law against using your phone while driving, be it for texting, social media or phone calls. In some states, like California and Nevada, the driver is not allowed to even hold their phone in their hand, whether or not it’s even on📴. Others, like Utah, ban texting while driving, but not holding the phone to talk. I have a vent-mounted phone cradle, so I can change songs on Spotify without holding my phone. I also can talk on the phone using my smart watch. Some people use Bluetooth earpieces for phone conversations.
These laws only pertain to the driver of a vehicle. Passengers are free to do as they will, since the driver is the one who must concentrate on the road. Some have called these laws “Distracted Driving Laws”. But are they the only distractions? What about the person who’s adjusting their A/C settings? The person that dropped something and is trying to grab it? The one fiddling with the radio🎶, adjusting the station or volume? What about the one “multitasking”—you know, unwrapping their hamburger🍔 and grabbing fries🍟, while chugging a Coke, or the lady who’s trying to fix her makeup? What about talking to a passenger, trying to look at them every so often? Here’s a fun distraction: looking at the accident you’re passing on the freeway, rubbernecking so you can get a real good look. Or, trying to see the fire from the smoke on the side of the highway. So many things can be distracting to a driver. If they’re in an accident because of something like this, will they get cited for distracted driving? I don’t know the answer to this.
In some states, the cell phone ban is considered a “primary offense”, whereby an officer can pull them over strictly for that reason. Another example is in Utah, if an adult wasn’t wearing their seatbelt, it was a “secondary offense” up until 2018—you couldn’t be pulled over just for the seatbelt violation. There had to be some other infraction involved. Since then, it was upgraded to “primary”, or you could be stopped by a cop just for not wearing your seatbelt. For minor children, it always was a primary offense.
Recently, I’ve watched some videos on YouTube that starkly illustrate the danger of using tech while driving. In Russia, these two girls were live streaming over Facebook in their car📳. After a bit, all hell breaks loose in the video, and you can hear voices coming to the car, but the girls were silent. They died as a result of the video they were shooting. In another video, someone showed the aftermath of one such crash. The driver was hanging out their window, motionless⚰, with blood streaking down the door. It was pretty gruesome to look at.
I think student drivers should be required to watch car accident videos like this, especially the really gnarly ones—the ones where someone gets injured, mangled or killed—as a result of texting, snapchatting or live streaming while driving. Additionally, they should be shown the wreckage of the vehicles in these crashes. Yes it’s gruesome. Yes, it’s shocking. But perhaps they need that shock factor to understand the importance of paying attention to your surroundings.
Anyone under age 30 has been surrounded by the Internet, YouTube, social media, etc., for most of their lives. Most of them can’t remember the world before today’s technology. I grew up in the 1970s-1980s, graduating high school in 1990. I didn’t even have Internet at home until 1995, and then it was on a desktop computer, via telephone cable, on a 56k-dial-up modem. I did high school research in a library using an encyclopedia, actually looking for books in a card catalog (using actual 3×5 cards) using the Dewey Decimal System. Learning to drive, there weren’t all the distractions we have in the 21st century. The biggest distraction was the car radio preset buttons (anyone remember having to turn the dial to fine-tune the station, then pull the button out and push it back in to set the station?) and paper maps (could anyone ever get those fucking things to fold right?). The national speed limit, until around 1995, was 55, not 65–85 like today.
Returning to now, I won’t say I’m the perfect driver. I don’t always have both hands on the wheel at all times. I talk on the phone while driving; I adjust my Spotify or change the station while cruising 80 mph on the freeway. I eat and chug my Rockstars behind the wheel. I’m not going to take on a “holier than thou” attitude about distractions. I do not, though, text anyone while driving. Sometimes one of my kids will text me while in traffic. I either wait until I’ve stopped, or I call them back. That text reply isn’t worth risking crashing my car and possibly killing myself or someone else. I don’t need that guilt.
By the way, just as a tidbit of useless information, my van finally surpassed 300,000 miles. It actually is over 304,000 now. Surprisingly, it still is running decently, despite needing an O2 sensor and an alignment, and trying to overheat in this oppressive summer weather (that’s usually when stopped at a light for a long time or driving uphill). With any luck, I’ll still be driving it in about five years when it rolls over 400,000. Maybe🤔?
I hope you weren’t driving while reading this🤭. Seriously, though, driving while distracted is dangerous and has led to many fatal accidents in the last 20 years. Contrary to what some people believe, replying to that text can wait a few minutes. My father-in-law used to say something that rings true in this case: it’s better to wait a minute than to lose your life in a second. Better to text later than die from impatience.
Please be careful while driving. There are so many dumbasses out there. Distracted, entitled and impatient fucks. It’s even worse now in the days of civil unrest, coronavirus, lockdowns, closures and quarantines. Don’t be a Karen or a Brad (or whatever the male version of a “Karen” is called). Wear your mask where required, be safe and be well.