Pull over or shut up
written by Bill:
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Here’s how old I am. When I was a kid growing up on a farm, we had an old telephone connected to a party line. When you picked up
the receiver, if anyone else was on the line for a call, you heard the whole conversation. I think there were about a dozen houses
on that particular party line.
Now, back in those days, you might think it would have been considered impolite to eavesdrop. And
you’d be right.
But no one owned up to eavesdropping, even though everybody did it — especially the farm wives in the neighborhood.
If they weren’t talking on the party line, they were listening in to whoever was carrying on a conversation. A sweet lady — really,
she was sweet, just annoyingly chatty and nosy — named Helen was the champ. Helen could talk for hours, then spend hours more listening
to anybody else who managed to fit in a call.
My Dad would come in from the field, needing to place a business call. To put it
mildly, Dad was not a patient man in those days. He’d turn six shades of purple when he would pick up the phone and, yes, there was
Helen on the line. He’d wait a couple of minutes, try again and, sure enough, Helen, still jabbering away. A couple more tries and
Dad would start looking downright homicidal.
Finally, exasperated, he’d pick up the phone and say, “Helen, get off the line. I’ve
got to make a business call.”
And I’ll bet Helen listened in on every call he made, too.
That’s a long way of relating to readers
that, from my earliest memories, I was drilled on the difference between necessary and unnecessary phone calls.
So let’s talk
about cell phones, distracted drivers and unnecessary conversations.
Just a few years ago some people had mobile phones, but most
did not. For certain, few tweens, teens and 20-somethings had cell phones.
In the not-so-distant past drivers were able to go from
point A to point B without giving in to an irresistible need to talk to another person on the phone — let alone text somebody on a
Now, fast forward to today. Driving the streets and highways reveals an astonishing number of people behind the
wheels of their vehicles, blabbing away on the phone or, worse, looking at their laps while they receive and send text messages.
suggests this inescapable conclusion: Since these conversations, just a few years back, did not take place at all, most of them today
are completely frivolous and unnecessary. So why are they happening? Because they can.
It has been well documented that Americans
have become attention-deficit prone. Everyday life is becoming more like a video game — lots of noise and lights and flash — just
to draw attention and send this simple message: Look at me! The cacophony of noise and the sheer volume of distractions makes it harder
and harder to clear one’s head and get focused on anything.
I think that’s what is behind the epidemic of yakking and texting
by distracted drivers. These folks are just bored. The act of sitting behind the wheel and concentrating on the road and other vehicles
around them is insufficient to hold their attention. So millions engage in the mobile phone equivalent of “wassup.”
threatens everybody else’s safety. According to a study by the U.S. Transportation Department 6,000 people died and half a million
were maimed last year because of distracted drivers. Findings suggest the danger of cell phones rises to a level perhaps as bad or
worse than drunk driving.
When texting, according to the study, drivers are 23 times more likely to make a mistake and cause a
collision than drivers who are focusing on the road.
Usually, I don’t like the knee-jerk government urge to act as Americans’
nannies. I’m bothered by heavy-handed laws related to such things as individual seat belt usage or requiring that bikers wear motorcycle
It’s a different issue, though, when a person’s behavior becomes a danger to others. Drunk drivers deserve tough treatment
under the law. So do reckless speeders.
The weight of the evidence is becoming overwhelming that yakkers and texters should be
The problem is getting worse, too. Studies have shown there were 10 billion text messages a month in December 2005, and
110 billion texts in December 2008. And that’s before the latest surge of smart phone technologies and commercial applications.
communication devices — calling them cell phones is so yesterday — will play a very large role in the information-based world of the
future. But they do not have to play that role while the user is supposed to be controlling tons of metal moving at a high rate of
I say, let’s have a little Prohibition. To check that text or take that call, pull over. Your urge to gab is not worth
the mortal danger posed for others.
Make it the equivalent of click-it-or-ticket.
Make it hang-up-or-pay-up.