Seriously: Put Down the Damned Phone When You're Driving

By James Fallows

I have hesitated before saying anything about this episode, because -- even now! even online! -- there is such a thing as too much personal info. But because it bears on a larger issue I decided to push the "publish" button.

In many decades with a driver's license, I've been a passenger in three collisions, but never in one while behind the wheel.

I came close yesterday. In the afternoon I was driving back from getting a haircut and was a mile away from my house, rolling toward a four-way-stop intersection I've passed through a thousand times over the years.

I came to a stop, and began going ahead. The car approaching the intersection from my left, a big SUV, came up to its stop sign at moderate speed -- and kept going. It steamed straight into the intersection, toward me on the driver's side of my (low and little) car. I'd barely started moving and so by swerving as hard as I could to the right, and braking, I just avoided the SUV's path. Then I stood on the horn.

When she heard the blare of my horn, the college-age young woman at the SUV's wheel looked up from the text message that had held her attention on the phone in her right hand. I stared at her hard. It wasn't worth even giving her the finger.

Grrrrr. I don't intend to say more about this and won't make it a campaign. But, really, this has to change. I'm used to the phenomenon of "text delay" at a red light: everyone is stopped, then the light turns green, and cars take a while to respond because their drivers haven't looked up from their screens. Often I "help" them along by flashing my lights or hitting the horn. But I'm not willing to let texting-while-driving people kill me. I don't know how this is going to be enforced or policed, but something has to give.

The night before I'd noticed this ad during the Olympics.


This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/07/seriously-put-down-the-damned-phone-when-youre-driving/260523/