Monday, January 25, 2010

Put your damn cell phones down

Posted By on Mon, Jan 25, 2010 at 3:36 PM

An article in today's Charlotte Observer really makes me mad. Part of my outrage is because, a week and a half ago, a distracted driver ran into the back of my car, forcing me to hit the car ahead of me in traffic. Not only is my car totaled, but I'm in serious pain and my life is, at the moment, consumed with calls about insurance, attorneys, and chiropractor and doctor appointments. I'm also now on an unscheduled hunt for a new vehicle. Oh, and the driver of the car that hit me? She's unemployed and uninsured.

Since that wreck, I've been very aware of the people in my rear view mirror. The day after my wreck, I forced myself to drive even though I was nervous. (Kinda like getting back up on a horse after you've been thrown.) On I-77 south, a man in a large company truck was riding my tail while playing with his cell phone. I saw him, several times, hold his phone at arm's length and stare at it. I can only assume he was texting. A few days later, a big box truck nearly ran me off the road. (If I hadn't been paying attention, it would have.)

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I want you to know my husband works in the cell phone industry so I'm thrilled all of you love your cell phones. At the same time, I implore you to put them down while you're driving. Use that time to, instead, listen to music, collect your thoughts and relax. Your friends and family can wait a few minutes to receive a response to their message. And, trust me, they'd much rather you arrive safely than get a response to, "What's for dinner?"

When you're behind the wheel of a car, you have a responsibility to yourself -- and everyone on the road with you -- to pay attention. So, put your damn cell phone down.

Tyler Strandberg of Rocky Mount has a hard time getting her mind off her BlackBerry when she drives.

She has wrecked three cars in the past three years.

Each time, she was distracted from driving because she was typing text messages or talking on the phone.

"Sometimes I will zone out and forget I'm driving," said Tyler, 23. "If I'm on the phone talking about something that takes up all my focus, I'm looking straight ahead - but not even seeing what's there."

Her dad, Buckley Strandberg, worries that she will never curb her dangerous habit.

But Buckley, an insurance executive, confesses his own weakness for Blackberry and Bluetooth. He feels compelled to conduct business by phone and e-mail on long, lonely drives between his offices in Rocky Mount and Nags Head.

"That's more than two hours," said Buckley, 49. "I'm not just going to sit there in the car. I get a lot of work done on that straight, dead stretch of U.S. 64.

"And if I run off the road, there are rumble strips that divert me back onto the road," he adds. "That has happened occasionally. They seem to work, those rumble strips."

Read the rest of this article, by Bruce Siceloff at the Raleigh News and Observerhere.

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