Marolt: The Grim Reaper’s middle name might be Siri
A texter narrowly avoided having to call his buddies to come cut my mangled, dead body from my wrecked Prius last week.
I drive Owl Creek Road almost every day, back and forth to work, ski and take care of other assorted odds and ends in Aspen. I will conservatively estimate that about twice a week an oncoming car will veer into my lane ahead, always, thus far, correcting its trajectory in time to avert tragedy.
Most of the time it happens close enough for me to actually see the tell-tale sign; eyes of the driver cast downward toward their lap, then suddenly looking up startled, but in time to make the necessary corrections so that each of us gets to continue along our way to enjoy what will most likely be an ordinary, hopefully productive and joyous day, albeit with a good adrenaline jolt to begin.
The closest call so far is the one mentioned above. I was coming home in the evening, nearing the curve and hill at the end of the long straightaway parallel to the airstrip. Right before the big curve, a silver Ford F-150 pick-up truck came suddenly into sight with half its thundering mass in my lane and in line to encroach further. I started to head for the ditch on the right-hand side of the road only to realize that the ditch was giving way to a large cottonwood tree at the turn. I honestly thought I was a goner.
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As the truck drew near, the driver glanced up; short dark hair, dark sunglasses and the expressed fear showing on his face of a man who knows he is about to accidentally kill someone and possibly himself, too. My tires were rattling gravel and stirring dust as he flung his steering wheel in a last-ditch effort to save lives. Fortunately, he was successful; a bad driver with good reactions.
As young men are apt to be, I’m sure he is proud of the latter with only protected admittance of the former.
I pulled over onto the gravel road at the apex of the big curve, scared out of my mind with arms and legs nearly numb and functionless in reaction to the abating adrenaline surge. I could feel my pulse pounding in my temples and neck. The driver of the silver Ford F-150 kept on his way, perhaps not like nothing just happened but certainly not as if he had any further concerns about me. I bet he looked in his rearview mirror and saw that I had survived in one piece and that was good enough; no harm, no foul, as they say.
Here is what might be the most frightening thing about this episode, though: the license plates on the truck the young man was driving were firefighter plates.
If, indeed, the truck was driven by a firefighter and not somebody who had borrowed it, it would seem to provide ample evidence that we are losing the battle to convince people that texting and driving is a serious, deadly combination. Presumably a firefighter has seen the grisly results of traffic accidents, some undoubtedly caused by drivers distracted by abbreviated messages about the latest gossip, work information, or directions to the place where everyone is meeting for dinner on their smartphones.
If a person who has been elbows deep in this type of catastrophe, and whose profession it is to save lives, cannot refrain from texting from behind the wheel of a moving automobile, what hope is there that the message to the rest of us is getting through?
They say that texting while driving is as dangerous as drunk driving. In the cerebral sense, I would say it is very much worse. At least a drunk driver has the explanation that their thinking was impaired by alcohol and that is why they got behind the wheel. The person texting while driving is doing so with full faculty of the sober brain. They are engaging in an illegal and extremely dangerous activity with full knowledge of what they are doing!
It is time we did something about texting and driving. I think a measure similar to the open container laws, making open alcoholic containers in a vehicle illegal, should be implemented similarly for cellphones. If you get pulled over by a law officer and your phone is anywhere in the vehicle besides locked up in the glove box, you will be ticketed for an offense of equal severity to a DUI.
Roger Marolt thinks texting might be as addictive as crack cocaine. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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