Before I get started, I’d like to invite you all to the Glendale Central Library at 7 p.m. Wednesday. I will be joining Patrick Caneday and two other authors for a discussion on self-publishing. We will also be autographing our books for those who wish to purchase a copy.
As a bonus, you will have a rare opportunity to tell me in person whether you agree or disagree with what I am about to say. And away we go.
Last week, my motorcycle broke down on the Golden State (5) Freeway. It happened in a really bad spot on an obscured curve where there was no shoulder. It forced me to put my bike as close to the concrete divider as possible while I waited nervously for assistance.
Fortunately, this mishap occurred during rush hour, so traffic was slowed considerably. Had it occurred while traffic was moving at 70 or 80 mph, I might not have been so fortunate to escape unscathed.
Ironically, my throttle cable broke as I was revving the engine to get the attention of a distracted, texting driver who happened to be swerving out of her lane and into mine. My brief, unpleasant encounter with the texter was but a foreshadow of two other events involving texting drivers.
The first occurred in stop-and-go traffic, the kind of sputtering commute where everyone moves in unison from 30 mph to a dead stop and back again. During a regular scan of my mirrors, I noticed the girl behind me was spending a lot of time looking into her lap, which is the tell-tale sign that someone is texting.
I also identified huge gaps between her car and mine when traffic would speed up. In one instance, traffic came to a sudden stop, and I looked behind me to see the girl, bearing down on me, head looking down at her cell phone, oblivious to what was happening on the road.
I braced for impact. Fortunately, she looked up just in time to skid to a stop a few inches before hitting me. I glared at her in my rear view, and as she looked in my mirror, I knew she could see that I was aware of what she was doing. I shook my head and drove away, disgusted by her reckless antics.
Two days later, I was driving home in particularly heavy traffic. It was the kind where you are completely stopped and have enough time to freely look around at your fellow commuters. Since I never get that opportunity on my bike, I figured I’d use my time to see just how many texting drivers I could spot.
I looked across the freeway divider into the likewise crawling mass of oncoming traffic. It provided the perfect conveyor belt of humanity for my little unscientific focus group.
Unfortunately, what I saw was incomprehensible and, frankly, quite sickening. Of the 20 drivers I managed to observe within about 20 seconds, eight were texting and another two had phones to their ears. That’s 50% of the observed drivers blatantly ignoring laws and common decency.
Seriously, people. How many times do I and other media outlets have to rant about this? How many more people have to die needlessly before you realize how dangerous it is to use your phone while you drive?
I don’t care what veil of civil liberties you want to hide behind. The insipid right to text and tweet while driving does not supersede my basic right to survive my commute. It never will. Texting and phoning drivers put everyone at risk.
In my opinion, it doesn’t look like those people are going to stop. I think it’s time for the rest of us, who do not have a death wish, to demand that the phone and car companies come together and create something that blocks phone use while in a car. There are already apps available.
But the problem with apps is they require people to care enough about others to download them on to their phone. And who has time for that when you are looking up pudding recipes on the Ventura (134) Freeway, right?
We sent a man to the moon. Can’t we get our phones to shut down when they are inside a moving car?
GARY HUERTA is a Glendale resident and author. He is currently working on his second novel and the second half of his life. Gary may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.