Your phone is ringing — get off the road and answer it


By Al Vinikour   

Life used to be so simple — especially when it came to driving. Other than listening to a radio and possibly your kids raising cane in the back seat there wasn’t much to do except concentrate on your driving…and occasionally pick your nose.

However, once technology reared its ugly head there were lots of things that some drivers think deserve more attention than driving safety – the biggest offender being cell phones. Some time when you’re rolling down the freeway, put down your damned phone and look at the age of drivers around you. I would bet that the older ones are looking at the road without something in their ears to make them resemble a Klingon.

The ones who are yakking on the phone are probably a much younger crowd. The fact my peeps didn’t have distractions like a cell phone is the main reason so many of us are still around.

Just like there are laws making turn signal use mandatory, capping noise levels emanating from car audio systems and driving slowly in the left-hand lane of an expressway, so too there are laws making hands-off use of cell phones mandatory.

What do these four laws have in common Einstein? Correct! None of them are enforced. I don’t know about you but I’m fed up with getting motion sickness by watching vehicles in front of me weaving in and out of their lanes because their drivers are on the phone and paying more attention to whom is on the other end of the line than traffic around them. Just once I’d like to see some gear-jammer wh
o has had enough drop his Kenworth down a few gears and ram a big, beautiful bumper into the side of Mr. Alexander G. Bell and force him off the road and cause him to hit a median wall…and you know, like die!!!! 

There are exceptions and I want to make them up front so I don’t get a batch of hate mail telling me what a SOB I’ve become because I have a column to vent my frustrations and think I’m always right. The initial purpose of cell phones was to be in touch in case of emergencies. If I or somebody else is driving down the interstate and I get a phone call informing me of a medical emergency of one of my loved ones or some school crisis dealing with one of my children I’m taking that call!

But if you’ve just gotten word of an emergency demanding your undivided attention, driving a two-ton vehicle is the last thing you should be doing. Pull over to the side of the road, continue with the call and do all the things you have to do immediately in response to what you’ve just been informed of.

If hands-free phone connections are lawful then why aren’t ALL vehicles equipped with this technology. En masse the costs couldn’t be that great and the savings in lives, not to mention lost productivity, would more than make up for it. I’m referring to something like Ford’s Sync technology. Cell phones should not be allowed to work in a vehicle unless they’re either hooked up to a hands-free setup or the vehicle is in the “Park” position (turned off). You sure as hell aren’t going to stop in the middle of I-94 to put your car in Park and make a phone call. What you’re going to do is pull off the road…like you’re supposed to in the first place!

Would you download a new book on your Kindle while you’re driving and begin reading it? Of course you wouldn’t. Would you participate in a rolling chess game on your laptop as you’re driving through Chicago traffic? Duh! Well by those standards why would you pick up a cell phone and begin a dialog with your buddy Willy about the babes you corralled last night at the club? Think you’re going to notice somebody running out between two cars while your eyes are teary from laughing so hard about the “dog” that Willy got stuck with after you left? Not hardly.

I’d tell everyone to use a little common sense…but if common sense were a commodity we’d have to import it from some third-world entity…because there doesn’t seem to be much of a supply in our own country.