Driving While Texting Causes Deaths: But, Does Outlawing it Make Us Any Safer?12.15.10
Such was the case for a 20-year-old woman in Glendale. After a three-month investigation in a fatal accident, it was concluded that the driver was texting when she ran a stop sign, striking and killing an 80-year-old man.
Mayor Ara Najarian said distracted driving and traffic collisions involving pedestrians had reached “an epidemic point in Glendale.”
The son of the deceased offered this:
Following the crash, the son, Roger Ranjbar, said he hoped “it was an accident, and nothing else like alcohol, or drugs, or like texting or talking on the phone.”
To which I say: what difference does it make?
Not to say that this isn’t tragic. To be 20-years-old and facing potential manslaughter or murder charges for typing “BRB” to her friend is devastating and life-changing to say the least. And I know how annoyed I get when someone cuts me off on the road and I see that they have a cell phone up to their ear (which is also illegal in California, but whatever), so to know that your father was killed because of similar behavior would most likely be maddening and infuriating.
But, aside from the emotional fury, what does it matter? Whether she was texting, chatting, doing her makeup, changing out a CD, changing the radio dial, turning down the volume on the stereo, adjusting her mirrors, eating, or any number of other possible things that people do when they’re behind the wheel, the result is the same: she failed to stop at a stop sign and, now, a man is dead.
Granted, texting is by far one of the the worst activities you can do while driving. With just about everything else, you at least have your eyes up — but texting you’re usually looking down into your lap, especially now in California because you don’t want a cop to see that you’re holding your phone in your hand. I think it’s beyond stupid to text and drive even though I’m not perfect and I used to text occasionally while I drove — now I make a point of not doing so. Not because I’m so worried about the ticket but because I don’t want to end up pulling a 20-year-old-texting move like that Glendale girl.
At the same time, I do use my phone as my iPod, so sometimes I glance over-slash-down to change songs. Is that different? Is that illegal? I don’t know how many times I’ve done that and wondered if I got pulled over if I could argue my way out of the ticket since changing the radio dial isn’t illegal, so why should this act be outlawed? Where do you draw the line?
The reality is that driving is inherently dangerous. Way more than most of us acknowledge. Living in Los Angeles, it’s commonplace to hear talk about a “fatal accident” on the radio when they give the frequent traffic update on the drive into work in the morning. Think about that: people driving to work will die every single week, just commuting, an everyday activity for most of us — for any number of reasons. So often that it’s not even shocking when I hear it from the morning shows.
My point is this: don’t trust anyone else behind the wheel. If you’re driving, be aware of everyone around you and don’t trust a soul to obey traffic laws. No texting ban or cell phone ban or eating ban or whatever they impose will make us any safer — people will still be idiots when driving. It’s up there with death and taxes.
Case in point: just this morning as I was driving through an intersection because the light turned green, I noticed a woman on a bike riding down an alleyway headed toward the street. I assumed she was going to stop since, well, there was a line of on-coming traffic headed her way with the right-of-way — but, I left off the gas anyway. Sure enough, without even bothering to glance to either side, she just kept on riding – slowly – across the street right in front of me as I slammed on my brakes. Oblivious, completely. Or suicidal.
The only thing you have control over is yourself, and defensive driving is your best way to stay safe.
Image courtesy of mrJasonWeaver’s Flickr Photostream.