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Editorials

HANG. UP. AND. DRIVE. (updated)

Saturday, March 08, 2014   by: David Root

Seriously. I am so very tired hearing people complain about young people being on their cell phone all the time.

Yes, young people have adopted cell phones with unbridled enthusiasm. Walk along a high school hallway at lunch time and you will see hundreds of students sitting on the floor, backs against their lockers, talking with their friends and texting. 

And, no, they are not texting the kid sitting next to them.

They may be “sharing” a pic or video they just saw on Facebook or Instagram, or whatever today’s favourite social media site might be, with other friends -- elsewhere in the school, or at another school, perhaps.

And I won’t suggest that no young people use their phones while driving because, unfortunately, I have seen it done.

However…

By far it is ADULTS who are the worst offenders.

As a driving instructor, I am on the road a lot. I see countless adults driving along, phone held up against their ear, not even trying to hide what they’re doing. Others are obviously texting, and checking messages as they drive.

By the way... my students notice them, too. They point and, shocked, ask, "Don't they get how dangerous that is?"

No, they don't. Or they don't care.

Let’s be honest, there’s only a couple of thing you could be looking at “down there” while you are driving. Keep your eyes on the road.

In fact, Alberta had a campaign last year focussing on this. Their slogan was CROTCHES KILL.

 

And no, holding the phone up against the steering wheel isn't any better. Your concentration is focussed on the device, not on the road where it is supposed to be.

Internet and TV media sites were abuzz this past week with the dashcam video taken by Ralph Ireland as he and his wife drove along Hwy 17 near Kenora, when another driver pulled out in front of them. The other driver didn’t see them, likely because — as was only too evident in the video — he was talking on his phone.

I will admit, 7 years ago when I got my first cell phone, there were a few times I risked checking to see who had just sent me a text message. There were even a couple of times I took a chance and replied to them.

Not to excuse what I did, but I was driving on the highway, no other vehicles in sight, and using a first generation cell phone, where texting was done by pressing the number keys. You could type without looking — as long as you were willing to accept a few mistakes.

abC A jkL jkL  M djkL A T dE pqR  [SEND]

But there was no way to read an incoming message without taking your eyes off the wheel. It wasn’t very long before I realized that no one was ever going to send me a message so important that I should risk my life, nor anyone else’s, to read it while driving.

I have not, since then, used my phone while driving.

We have had built-in Bluetooth® technology in the driving school cars for a few years, now. My current car will even read text messages to me. (I cannot SEND a text message while driving.) 

As for incoming calls, the number is displayed on both the multi-function screen and the dash, so I can choose to either answer or ignore it with the press of a conveniently-located button on the steering wheel.

Unless I feel the call is important, and especially if I am with a student, I will most often hit “ignore” and let it go to voice mail, to be answered later when I am off the road.

In my own vehicle I have a Bluetooth® device on the sun visor. It works okay, but I keep forgetting to bring it in and charge the batteries, so more often than not, my phone just stays in my pocket and I return calls and messages when I get where I am going.

By the way, folks… being stopped at a red light is still considered “driving.” The car may not be moving, but the driver must still remain alert. Looking down at your crotch and typing a message is not remaining alert.

If you need to use you phone, pull over -- preferably off the road and into a parking lot -- and put the vehicle in Park.

However, it appears, to me, that there are more drivers talking on their cell phones than texting. It may seem to be a safer bet… after all, you can keep your eyes on the road. I guess. Sort of. Well… no, not really.

But as we saw in the Ireland video, that is not always the case.

Remember, driving is not just about looking straight ahead. You must be constantly scanning for hazards — pedestrians running across the road, vehicles running red lights, or pulling out of driveways, etc.

I tell my driving students that, after a collision, a driver will often be heard to say, “He came out of nowhere!” or “I just didn’t see him coming.” Wrong.

Typically, a vehicle doesn’t just come out of nowhere. Likely, the driver just wasn’t looking properly.

By the way, there are deductions on the road test for “Failure to observe properly.” (Which, if it were up to me, we would ALL have to re-do every 5 years, to renew our licenses. "Tax grab" be damned, too many drivers develop all sorts of bad habits.)

Distracted driving is now the leading cause of fatal traffic collisions; higher than either impaired driving or speeding.

As I mentioned previously, there are a lot of adults complaining about young people on their phones. As I see it, the adults aren’t setting all that good of an example for the young people.

There’s an age-old bit of advice that I feel applies here: “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

I have seen workers in company vehicles talking on their phones. Occasionally I am in a position to point to them and gesture hanging up, or even speak to them. More often than not, I receive rude hand gestures, insults, and obscenities in reply.

One worker even told me, “Hey, I’m working here.” His employer was not all that impressed. (Hint: if you’re driving around in a work vehicle, with the company name and phone number emblazoned on the side, you might want to think twice about using your cell phone while driving.)

This week the OPP is launching a “Distracted Driving” blitz. Not sure if the City Police are conducting their own blitz, but why take a chance? 

I heard from the City Police, tonight... they are targeting distracted drivers this month, and will be releasing a mid-month reminder, with some numbers, this coming week.

You have been warned.

If caught, whether or not as part of a “blitz”, the fine is currently $155.

FYI... on 18 March, the fine increases to $280. And, all fines are subject to a 25% Victim Surcharge, so that makes it a nice, even $350.

And, no, it's not a "money grab." Like speeding tickets, you will only get a distracted driving ticket if you are breaking the law.

Money aside, there is no call, no message so important that you need to risk your lives or the lives of others. 

 

Hang Up And Drive.

 

 

Image credits
"Crotches Kill", http://www.saferoads.com/communication/communication-print-resources.html
"You Tube" video clip, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KILUlAGgZcg
"Hang Up and Drive", http://wkycdirectorscut.blogspot.ca/2010/11/wkyc-launches-hang-up-and-drive.html

Comments
5
Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of SooToday.com. If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
Sam C 3/11/2014 10:11:08 PM Report

I have seen so many drivers on their phones since posting this column. Even tonight, on my way home from a meeting, heading up Gt Northern crossing Second Line on a green, I had to take evasive action (swerve, horn) as a woman came in rather hot to a red light, coming to a quick stop a metre past the line, all the while looking down at her lap. Not sure she even realized there was a problem.
Javaman 3/12/2014 4:21:27 PM Report

The police need to set up several concentrated blitzes at major corners for several days.
Sam C 3/12/2014 4:56:03 PM Report

Javaman... I'm sure they'd nab quite a few, but I suspect enough people would see it coming and put their phones down.

I love how the British cops do it... Unmarked cars with dash cams...hard to refute the video evidence.

20 minutes ago I watched a woman stop ON the tracks at a red light and use her phone. Sad.
Javaman 3/12/2014 8:56:57 PM Report

Today I saw a woman with a coffee in her hand an a cell phone cradled under her neck as she drove thru the great Northern/Second Line intersection.
Sam C 3/13/2014 11:25:52 PM Report

Not surprised.
Comments
5
Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of SooToday.com. If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
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