So let’s come right out of the gate in this column and call it public safety, shall we?
I like to tee off on what I feel is straight-up common sense, such as leaving a dog in the car on a hot day with the windows cracked about an inch. An inch! Like that’s supposed to offer the poor beast inside some kind of relief. It doesn’t! So please don’t do it ... just don’t! Please!
Another thing I think makes sense but clearly doesn’t is the operating of a motor vehicle. I got my driver’s license in 1980, back when the drinking age was 18 and you could join the armed forces, vote and start down a long path of becoming a contributing member of society. It was simpler then; the only phone we had was attached to a six-foot cord in the kitchen. The "wireless" phone was starting to pop up, but once you pulled the six-foot collapsible antenna to answer it you could really only move around the room you were in. And a text message was a typed letter from your grandmother. None of that stuff wound up in the car, nope -- in fact the only thing that wound up in my car was Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull and Bob Seger cassettes. Music was the only form of distraction.
But now I see more and more distracted driving. People on phones, blah, blah, blah. People texting while driving and people watching movies while driving. It’s a level of crazy I can’t get my head wrapped around. Now, I’m not going to get into quoting statistics about using your phone while driving, though it is the equivalent of slurping down a cold six-pack of beer and getting behind the wheel. I’m not gonna do that, in large part because those stats don’t work. Instead, I will speak to you in terms that we can all understand.
The average Toyota and Subaru weigh roughly 3,000 pounds and Chevy’s and GM products are roughly 3,500 pounds. Now let’s talk SUV. These things weigh between 4,500 and 6,000 pounds. All of the above-mentioned vehicles are by and large capable of doing speeds of up to 100 mph. If you hit a house doing 75 mph, chances are you’d wind up practically all the way through it. If you hit a tree, chances are the tree would wind up halfway through you. But why? Well, perhaps you took your eye off the road to answer a text or e-mail? Perhaps your phone rang and you went to answer it and dropped the phone. Perhaps, as is the case with many accidents, you were distracted for a split second and now you’ve just hit and killed someone because someone "Lol’d" you. Worth it? I’m gonna go with no.
Yes, I’ve been distracted by my cell phone, so I can only hope I don’t get hurt falling off my high horse. But since I tend to be on the road training for my August and November Ironman races, I have to say it flat out boggles the mind how much the citizens of our region are distracted by their mobile devices. Your mobile device most likely only weighs a few ounces, but if you’re driving it now weighs whatever you and your car weigh. If you’re walking and you throw your phone at a cyclist and hit them, it’s gonna hurt, but if you do the same while driving ... well, let’s not get into the consequences of that, shall we? Hopefully you can picture it, and now you can work to do your level best to avoid it.
In 1980, I didn’t care if someone needed to reach me ASAP. I was cranking Zeppelin in my Mom’s 3,500-pound Subaru and if a phone rang I couldn’t hear it. Not because the music was too loud, but because I was 20 miles from home and the phone was ringing in my kitchen, and whoever was calling had to wait until I got home, and no one died as a result. So all I’m saying is let’s not kill someone because the phone rings. What the hell is up with that?