We're all leading busy lives these days, I get that. Everybody's phones buzz all day long, and you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a text-sending teen (or grandmother, for that matter). But it really irks me that all this is happening - increasingly - behind the wheel. Usually right in front of me, too. It really raises my hackles to spot some yahoo yapping on the phone as his car zigzags in the lane next to me while I'm trying to enjoy my Sunday morning cruise. Young, old, rich, poor - hell, I don't care if you're Mother Teresa - just friggin acknowledge my presence. It's the height of arrogance to ignore your surroundings - and your neighbors - in as unpredictable a place as a public road. Why don't you hold up a whisky bottle and take a swig? It'd have the same effect.
When California passed legislation prohibiting the use of cell phones while driving a couple of years ago (unless the driver uses a hands-free device), I was somewhat mollified. But it didn't seem like it went far enough - offenders couldn't be pulled over just for talking (California has since made it a primary offense). Around the same time, Washington became the first state to specifically prohibit the dreaded DWT - driving while texting. It was a start, I thought.
Oregon finally got onboard with a cellphone ban this year, and I felt a little better, because the law prohibits talking, texting - doing anything with a mobile device (though hands-free devices are allowed) while driving. Now that's more like it. And Oregon makes it a primary offense, so if a cop happens to spot you on the phone while you're driving, it's ticket time. This year, too, the U.S. Department of Transportation prohibited texting by drivers of commercial vehicles like large trucks and buses. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) concluded that "drivers take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds out of every 6 seconds while texting. Drivers who text while driving are more than 20 times more likely to get in an accident than non-distracted drivers."
It's still a jungle out there - others have shown that hands-free isn't the way to go. Drivers are still distracted just by the act of having a conversation, regardless of whether they use their hands or not. A newly released finding opines that California's hands-free law isn't working at all; crashes haven't significantly decreased as a result of the law. Some believe that's because the law is not very aggressively enforced in the state (for more on that, see: http://www.aolnews.com/story/california-drivers-ignore-hand-held-cell/748952), which is probably true, but it's probably also because hands-free doesn't mean distraction-free.
So I'm pissed off when I see some yahoo swerving past, chatting away in his own little world, steering wheel between the knees. When (or if) they look at me, I usually give 'em long blast on the horn. It's probably only a temporary distraction, but least now I KNOW they see me.
I'm still of the opinion that your butt should be fined $500 or more for texting behind the wheel. Think about it - you're looking DOWN, not at the road. And I don't believe communication devices aboard a motorcycle are a great idea either. For the same reason. But that's just me.
You think we have it bad, though? I just heard an item on NPR a few days ago that made the hairs on my neck stand up. Seems that in Vietnam - where motorcycles make up the primary form of transportation - things have gotten so out of hand that E.R. doctors are pleading with legislators to crack down on drivers texting while...riding. A motorcycle. (or in this case, scooters too). Yup, it's as insane as it sounds.