(Published in the September 2010 issue)
Here’s a fun game: the next time you’re stuck in the left-turn lane waiting for your light to turn green, count the number of drivers who whiz by holding cell phones.
The other day, I counted 13 out of 22 drivers with hand-held phones before the guy behind me honked, whereupon I tweeted about this horrible development while making my turn.
This is not counting the drivers who may have been on their hands-free devices, but I couldn’t tell. You know the ones, chattering away when it appears nobody else is in the car. They could be talking to the unseen child sitting low in the backseat or the illegal aliens being smuggled under the tarp-but if indeed they are celling hands-free, at least it’s legal and reasonably safe.
Here is my call to action: we need to turn off our devices in the car, even though all of this really isn’t our fault; it’s technology’s. We’re like Pavlov’s dogs-when we hear that chime, we pick up. It’s involuntary.
We must battle technology, or it will kill us. Let’s get selfish! You know the stats: texting drivers are 23 times more likely to crash than non-texters. Holding the cell phones up to our ears cuts off our peripheral vision, et cetera.
Imagine if the pilot of the Enola Gay had been texting, “OMG Mt. Fuji is awesome!!!” instead of focusing on his target. He would have A-bombed China.
I’ll admit it: I’ve been guilty. I’ve texted while driving and thought I could do it because I was more coordinated than regular people. How arrogant. (I’m not proud of that, which I think is Step Nine of my recovery. Almost there.)
What’s worse, I’m ashamed to say, is that I’ve gone vigilante-putting down the iPhone long enough to zip across lanes, risking everybody’s well-being just to catch up with some reckless texter so I could honk and pantomime the "stop-texting” signal like some rabid charades player. Yeah, that’s real smart.
And I’m chicken, too. Oh, sure, I’ll get all huffy with a teenage girl or some mild-mannered looking guy, but if it turns out to be a tough-looking dude, I’ll just do what I should do anyway: mind my own business and try to get to my destination in one piece.
One day this past July, and I swear to the religious icon of your choice that this is true, I was right behind a guy driving a Ferrari with the top down. He was bobbing his head up and down and driving erratically-telltale texting. As it happens, I was turning right when the light turned red, so as I breezed by him on the right, I had my scold all ready and my window down.
Well, Ferrari Man may have been tweeting his 5,000,000 followers, because it turns out he was a very famous, three-time All-Pro Chargers linebacker. Uhh...I went ahead and stifled myself and rolled up the window. Totally chicken, and everybody was better off for it. In the big picture, Ferrari Man was being safer than I was.
If public safety isn’t enough to motivate us to stop texting or using a cell phone without a headset, consider that California is going broke. At $20-$50 a pop (or waaay more if other violations are involved), cops could snag us like fish in a barrel and erase the state debt in about a day.
The point is, we’re all in this together. We’ve all been guilty. Instead of remembering Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah’s couch, the one thing we owe to the The Big O’s legacy is her campaign to stop driving while texting and cell-phoning without a headset.
Let’s pledge together. I’ll even promise to stop scolding (reformed hypocrites are the worst).
Let’s turn off our devices so that we don’t salivate when they chime.
Instead of texting on your drive to work, you can tune in to Cookie “Chainsaw" Randolph, weekday mornings with the DSC on 100.7 JACK-FM.