Image via WikipediaIn the province where I live, British Columbia, a new law came into effect on January 1st, banning drivers from using hand-held devices (ie cellphones) while driving. I think it's a good law, especially after an incident I witnessed not more than a month ago driving back from Richmond to the ferries as I do monthly.
It was on Steveston Highway near the Ironwood Mall, for anyone who knows the area. That place is a bottleneck at certain times of the day as people rush to get on Highway 99 and out of town. Rush hour isn't an hour-long anymore and hasn't been for years! Why don't we find another name for it??
Anyway, I was sitting patiently in the gridlock knowing full well that it was going to take some time to get out of there, when I noticed a young woman with two children in the back seat of her car, trying to get out of the mall parking lot. I was quite ready to let her in, but she didn't even look at me. She started butting her car into the lane of cars I was in, her eyes not even glancing my way, her cellphone glued to her ear. Well, okay, I thought, and waited so she could move in. But that wasn't enough for her, she actually wanted to get into the next lane beside mine, which was moving a lot faster and would been a blind move for her even without a cellphone. As she continued to slowly butt through my lane, she did not look at me once, so concentrated on her cellphone conversation. I started to flail my arms, motioning for her to hang up her phone. This was no situation to be having a cellphone conversation in. Her kids saw me, but she didn't look. I think one of her kids said something to her, but she still didn't look.
Eventually, she made it into the lane beside mine and brazenly put the pedal to the floor, racing away into whatever other disaster awaited her next. I couldn't believe her outrageous behaviour, especially with little kids in the car. And that's not the first time I've seen stupid behaviour from someone driving with a cellphone stuck to their ear.
Don't get me wrong, I myself have driven like that before on more than one occasion. That's why I think I can say with confidence that it is definitely a distraction. But beyond the distraction of a conversation, you are driving with one hand, most likely your right hand, meaning that if you want to signal a lane change you actually have to take your hand off the wheel to reach your signal. Most cellphones are too tiny and awkward to hold between your ear and your shoulder, so that's out of the question. And your blind spot on the left side becomes even more blind because of your cellphone and your hand blocking your view even more.
Which is why it's a stupid argument to say that it's all about the conversation you're having on your phone, and that it is the same as having a conversation with someone in your car, so no big deal. That's only half the distraction! I tuned into a talk show the other day and heard whiner after whiner complain that they've "never had an accident" while talking on their phones, so why should they be "punished"? Okay, buddy, maybe it isn't YOU having all of the accidents, but clearly we have to do something about all of the people who are! What is the big deal in getting a hands-free Bluetooth gadget if you MUST be on the phone in your vehicle every minute you're in it? Oh, right, Bluetooth isn't very good, and blah, blah, blah.
I used my hands-free device just yesterday, calling my husband back because I had missed his call. I drove a particularly narrow stretch of road as I was talking to him, but I had both hands on the wheel and could easily turn on the signal and do a shoulder check before I changed lanes.
The ones who are going to benefit most from this law are kids of driving age, because they will be less likely to get into an accident, potentially killing someone and even themselves. They are younger, they can adapt to things more easily than the rest of us, so they'll get over it. But there's one significant difference; kids text MORE than they talk. And the hands-free device doesn't solve that issue. So kiddies, you are going to have to give up texting while you're driving a car. Sorry. Can it wait until you're parked somewhere, or until you have reached your destination? It'll have to.
Today I read an article on the CBC News website about CES, the Consumer Electronics Show down in Vegas. Canadians are complaining because they can't get all of these lovely gadgets or the content up here in Canada because we have too many Canadian content restrictions. I'm not so sure that's a bad thing! We are so tech-obsessed that we have to watch TV on our cellphones? Or in our cars? We are so dumb that we need a GPS unit to tell us where we are at all times? How about reading a road sign? How about checking a map and mapping a route before you leave?
My daughter introduced me to the term "tech-tarded", which is SUPPOSED to mean someone who can't or doesn't handle all of this gadgetry very well. I'm going to use it in another way. Tech-tarded will be my new definition for someone who cannot live without being wired to something at all times. Sure, technology is amazing and wonderful and gives us access to lots of great things. But we're in danger of allowing it to make us more stupid.
So put the cellphone down, don't be a TECH-TARD!