I’ve often said that learning is continuous and lessons can present themselves in a variety of ways. It bears mentioning that I’ve learned never to say that I’ve fully “learned” something, because life has a way of slapping you on the back of the head and letting you know that, in fact, you haven’t learned anything.
Life seems to be doing quite a bit of slapping lately, where the lesson is applied to distracted drivers. Even with the steep violation fee, on any given day, I’ve been able to spot at least five drivers with a phone attached to their ear, as if it were a separate appendage. Many of these drivers are adults, and when you point out that they’re breaking the law and could very well hurt someone, they look at you as though you were from another planet. It’s infuriating, especially because so many of them also breeze through the “Stop” that is painted on the pavement in the ShopRite parking lot in Plainview.
Just last week, I noticed a woman who was negotiating her Escalade through the lot, phone attached to her ear. She was engrossed in what appeared to be a full-length conversation, for she was rather animated as she spoke. She drove right through the “Stop” and narrowly missed hitting a woman and her child. As I attempted to enforce my own brand of vigilante justice, the driver told me to mind my own business. Had she injured either of the pedestrians, I would have been the perfect witness, and it would have immediately become my business.
Distraction while driving isn’t just something that applies to cellphone usage, although this is obviously a biggie for our community. Last weekend, my husband and I were traveling through the side streets that lead out to South Oyster Bay Road. A young driver who was coming from the opposite direction veered into our direct path. Without warning, he made a U-turn directly in front of us and parked in front of his home. His distraction was caused by music that was loud enough for us to hear it above our own radio. We had the right of way, but he didn’t seem aware that one cannot make a left turn in front of oncoming vehicles.
This is not the first time that something like this has happened to us. Last year, as I drove towards the green light on Nevada Street and Broadway in Hicksville, a young mother made a left in front of me. When I told her to drive her car into the Red Lobster lot to exchange information, she began to yell that I had hit her. I had the green light and had right of way, and she failed to signal, and she also broadsided me. Although I was furious at the time, the silver lining was that nobody got hurt. The mom’s distraction was caused by her child in the back seat, for I noted that before she turned into me, she had turned to look at her young son.
I’ve seen drivers who apply makeup while driving, and I’ve seen drivers who have been so engrossed in their meal that they employ their elbows to steer. It never ceases to amaze me that when one is behind the wheel of a 2-ton machine, one should focus on the road and not on their phone, food or makeup. Lack of sleep can also distract a driver, as well as loud music and talking on a hands-free device. Eyes need to be on the road, and the brain must be engaged with the only task that is important: driving.
Distracted driving has almost become pandemic throughout our community. It almost fosters the belief to those who drive carefully that other drivers “simply do not care” about courtesy behind the wheel. AT&T had the right idea with their “It Can Wait” campaign, but the notion should also be applied to following the rules of the road. If we all take an extra couple of minutes to get from Point A to Point B, perhaps we won’t be in such a rush to blow through that stop sign or traffic light. Maybe if we put our phones in the glove box, we won’t be tempted to look at them. I’ve often said that a refresher course should be mandated after five years of driving, or that violations should come with a steeper price to encourage adherence. It might seem a little harsh, but it might prevent someone from driving in a way that can injure themselves or others. Perhaps, if we pull over to the curb to finish that conversation, sandwich or application of mascara, we can stay safe and help to prevent injury to others who share the road with us.