Monday, October 5, 2015

How many have to die?
     An eighteen-year-old girl in my area was texting a friend while driving.  Whatever that message was, it was expensive.  It cost her everything—all her dreams and plans and ambitions, her friendships, her happiness, her whole bright future—when she ran into the back end of a log truck at lethal velocity.

     The world-wide addiction to cell phones is such that people simply will not stop texting and talking and surfing while simultaneously trying to control a two-ton vehicle at highway speeds.  These people would probably agree that trying to brush your teeth or trim your bangs or apply makeup or watch TV or clip your fingernails while driving would be absurd and suicidal.  Yet they think nothing of risking their own lives and, much worse, the lives of all those around them in order to conduct such conversations as:

     “Hi, where are you?”
     “On the beltway, headed home.  Traffic is an absolute frenzy.”
     “Tell me about it.  Some idiot just cut me off.  I’ll be home in half an hour, though.”
     “Okay.  You want me to stop for milk?”
     “No, I’ll do it.  See you there.  Love you, Snookums.”
     “Back at you, Sweet Cheeks.”

     For such conversations, people are dying gruesome deaths.

     The National Safety Council said 3,328 people died and 421,000 suffered injuries during 2012 alone in crashes related to distraction.  That’s nine deaths and 1,150 injuries per day.  AAA has since upped the current annual death toll to 5,000, or more than 13 daily deaths.  That’s two more deaths per day than the American military suffered on average throughout the entire Vietnam War. 

     Why don’t lawmakers seem at all concerned about these statistics? 

     The evidence is abundant and clear that cell phone use is killing and disabling drivers everywhere.  We don’t need any further studies to know we simply cannot devote sufficient safe attention to driving while engaged in cell phoning.

     The average time to answer a text is five seconds, in which time, at 55 miles per hour, a car travels the length of a football field, ample time and distance for all kinds of bloody mayhem to happen to drivers, passengers, and those around them.

     A number of states have taken timid steps to slow the slaughter. 

     Recently in California, where texting while driving, at least, is illegal, the cops have tried to crack down.  Drivers are often either astonished or angry when pulled over for what they consider to be only normal, innocent behavior.  But at least they’re not yet dead or maimed for life when they accept a ticket.

     When asked, 74 percent of drivers say that all hand-held cell phone use by drivers should be outlawed.
     Yet in surveys a majority of drivers admit to using their phones routinely.

     There’s a simple solution.  Cell phones have built-in GPS.  From now on by law they could all be configured from the factory so that when the phone senses any velocity greater than brisk walking speed, it will simply cease to work until velocity is reduced below the limit.  The 911 number would still operate for emergencies.  If you must talk or text, you’d have to pull over to do so—a minor inconvenience when weighed against so many thousands of lives.  Old phones would gradually phase out as they’re retired.

     Ask the parents and friends of the girl who crashed into that log truck if something like this might be a good idea.


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