I’m sure some will call me “old school” on this but I’d much prefer being alive with my “old school” priorities when it comes to getting behind the wheel.
When I went through the driver’s education courses offered through the Fairfax County School System, the first thing to do when getting behind the wheel is to buckle up. Once you start the engine, there is and always shall be only one focus: driving the vehicle. One hundred percent of my attention must be focused on that one task.
Nowadays, I watch people get into their cars and the first thing they do is open up the cell phone and start talking with someone. People coming into shopping center parking lots, a sure sign to have pedestrian traffic, are oblivious to this because they continue to yap on their cell phones.
Earlier this afternoon, I drove Route 28 northbound from Westfields Boulevard to Route 7 (in Loudoun County). I took note of the cars that I passed to my immediate left (and one to the immediate right). While I did not keep track of the specific number, it felt like at least 80 percent of those drivers were using a cell phone.
A couple of specific instances … one made a lane change without signaling: talking on the cell phone. He was getting around a woman who, in the right lane doing 55-60 as we went over US-50, was looking DOWN to program what appeared to be her MP-3 player (she was wearing ear buds).
I realize that, in times of emergency, the use of a cell phone cannot be avoided. But if anyone tries to sell me that eight people out of 10 all have emergencies during a 15 minute period, I’ll tell him/her to take a flying leap off the Grand Canyon.
Unfortunately, the current law structure does not provide for penalties unless drivers are stopped for something else first. Sure, cell texting is banned in all three areas (DC/MD/VA) and the use of hand held phones is banned in DC and Maryland. But until law enforcement officers are permitted to make that a primary citation, there won’t be much of an improvement on our streets and highways. For as often as I drive to Maryland (FedEx Field, association office), drivers still use hand held devices.
Unfortunately, we seem to live in a REACTIVE society where change does not come until a tragic event occurs. It’s clear that cell phone and mobile device usage while 0perating a motor vehicle is as dangerous, if not moreso, than driving under the influence. DUI is a primary offense and the penalties are harsh; it’s time cell phone/mobile device usage become included as well.