As I lean my motorcycle into the curve that takes me onto I-95, I roll the throttle to accelerate up to highway speeds. Up ahead I see a car going well below the minimum speed of 45 mph, with the left turn signal on but swerving to the right. I give this big unknown a wide berth, and as I pass, I see the person gabbing it up on a cell phone.
This doesn’t happen occasionally. Rather, it happens multiple times each and every day as I head out on South Florida roads. There’s the guy sitting at a green light with his thumbs moving around on the phone’s keyboard. There’s the oblivious driver yacking on the phone while attempting to merge into traffic causing other to swerve to avoid them. And then there are those barreling down the road with a cell in one hand, an open laptop on the center console, and a cup of coffee in the other hand.
Numerous studies have been done (namely by the AAA) indicating that cell phone use while driving is the equivalent to driving legally drunk. It makes you wonder what the public perception would be if every person you see driving with a cell phone was instead taking a swig from a bottle of scotch.
There’s an old joke that asks: What’s the difference between a drunk driver and a person driving with a cell phone? The drunk is at least trying to drive. There’s a whole lot of truth to that.
And yet in this state, we can’t even get a ban on texting while driving—a habit that’s so obviously dangerous, as it takes a drivers complete attention away from the road, it should be a no-brainer.
The Florida Legislature has six bills before it this year that would ban texting and driving. A bill filed by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, is expected to get time in front of a committee. There’s supposedly even bipartisan support in the Senate. But opponents in the Florida House have vowed to defeat it.
Certainly the cell phone lobbyists have pumped plenty of cash to keep any kind of ban off the books. But I’m thinking that the legislators themselves are more than likely part of the problem, and can’t push a law that they themselves would regularly break.
Indeed, AAA reported on Jan. 25: “Despite the near-universal disapproval of texting and emailing while driving (95 percent), more than one-in-four licensed drivers (27 percent) reported sending a text or email at least once in the past 30 days, and more than one-third (35 percent) said they read a text or email while driving. Young drivers age 16-24 were even more likely with more than half (61 percent) reporting having read a text or email while driving in the past month, while more than one-in-four (26 percent) reported checking or updating social media while driving.”
And so we have reached the point that MADD reached regarding driving while intoxicated. Public perception will have to be changed first. The statistics of people being killed and maimed by distracted drivers are starting to mount. Sadly, it may take the deaths of a few prominent mothers’ children to finally get the grassroots of change started—and that is truly sad considering the obviousness of the problem.
Consider the absurdity of giving a toddler a loaded gun. You wouldn’t do it. We all wouldn’t do it because it is so obviously wrong. So though we all agree it’s stupid, nobody wants to put a law in the books because that’s infringing on our rights.
There’s an old saying that your rights end at the tip of my nose. Lately, I’ve had to do some serious jogging to avoid the one-ton juggernauts on the road, rolling like there’s no one at the helm, from infringing on my rights.
Bill Andrews and his wife, Star, both work at Nova Southeastern University in the Health Professions Division Library. He calls Hollywood home and has been a resident of South Florida for most of his life.