Saturday, September 15, 2007

Unsafe At Any Speed

"Driving round a bend, and skidding on a mat of toads is very unpleasant for all

-Amanda Hillier

Tell me, do you find yourself looking at other drivers while you are moving along in traffic? I do. Sometimes when I am the driver of the car, but mostly when I am the passenger. I always have my digital camera out, because you never know when you might see something interesting. I didn't always keep it out of the case when the car was moving, but see, Alan and I had a very near miss incident in August of 2006, which scares the pistons out of me to this day. I decided that day, that I would keep the camera out, and turned on, just in case we ever came that close to being hit again. I want to get a photo of the plate number. It scared me, and it was months before I had a lot of confidence about driving on HWY 580, either as a driver or a passenger. Shame on those who deliberately cut you off in traffic! The only thing I knew to do to conquer the fear it had left me with, was to get right back on the freeway as a driver, and keep my trusty camera by my side as a passenger. I thank God for that camera every day.

So, you can probably imagine how I felt last Thursday, when I saw a woman, a rather age mature woman, in the car next to me, working a puzzle in a book, while driving her car, sometimes exceeding 50 MPH. We were on the San Mateo Bridge, heading eastbound, in late afternoon rush hour traffic, and she was doing a puzzle! She had to know better. I got so tired of folks screaming about the evils of cell phone use while driving, while other just as negligent behaviors go unaddressed. Eating, drinking coffee/sodas, smoking, and driving with animals who aren't properly restrained, all play into the possibility of negligence. Why do folks have to multi-task every last moment of their lives? Alan and I lost sight of her in traffic at some point, and I am glad. I didn't really want to be anywhere near her. You know? But I did wrestle with whether or not to call the CHP with her license plate number and location. I am not sure there is a law exactly about this kind of action. I see folks reading maps, while driving, all the time, but this was different. Was it my place to report her?

A part of me says, yes, I should have. I have to learn about second guessing myself on certain things. If I had come home, and heard on the news later that evening, that she got into an accident, would I have been responsible somehow? I probably would have felt responsible for not turning her in. At the same time, a part of me wonders if I was invading her privacy somehow? Didn't she have the right to do whatever she wants in her own car, if she is willing to accept the consequences of her behavior, should something go wrong? Is it up to me to intervene under any circumstances?

Opinions please. Tell me what you think. Would you have turned her in? Would you have shaken your finger at her, in disgust, as you drove by? Would you have just ignored it, and hoped she was paying better attention then it seemed she was? Have you ever been tempted to turn in a fellow motorist, after seeing them engaging in a similar activity? Share your thoughts with me. :)

"Reckless automobile driving arouses the suspicion that much of the horse sense of the good old days was possessed by the horse."


"Shame On You"
HWY 92
Hayward, California
September 13th, 2007
Late Afternoon


Suzanne R said...

The lady driver who was doing the crossword puzzle while driving (amazing pic, BTW) gives me the willies! As for driving while talking on a cell phone, I haven't done that yet as I just got my cell phone. I plan to avoid doing so if at all possible. I have eaten while driving as recently as this last Wednesday -- my bad.

Now, as for the question of whether to report a reckless driver like the one you caught on camera, it might be an exercise in futility unless as a passenger it was possible to get and write down her license plate number and call the police. You likely did the best and most practical thing by getting away from her, although I would have worried, too, about whether she might harm someone else.

I think a lot of us underestimate the dangers of driving while distracted, but this lady has most of us pretty much eating her dust when it comes to carelessness.

MyMaracas said...

I'm glad you put some distance between you and this whacko. Working a puzzle is way worse than talking on a cell phone, eating, or listening to the radio.

And no, she doesn't have the right to do this, because other people will suffer the consequences of her actions right along with her.

Still, if the police don't actually see her do it they most likely wouldn't pull her over.

People. Sheesh.

Wil said...

Back in the stone age, I would have to leave my warm bed of a Monday morning about 5:00 or so and journey about seventy miles away to the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, where I'd spend the week doing justice to criminals.

On that commute, I'd usually find myself behind Billy Diamond's car on the Interstate. Just a matter of timing, I guess. Anyway, for 70 miles we'd be traveling in tandem, he reading the morning papers and swilling his coffee while I'd do the same. He did the drive every day of the week, both ways. I didn't. He made it look easy - I made it look clumsily stupid. We'd both be traveling well over the posted speed limit. Neither of us likely to be harassed by the police because the entire convoy'd be made up of police and fire investigators from all over the northern half of the state. Y'see, Billy was the Secretary of State (in charge of the DMV amongst other duties). I was a fire chief. And what we did was neither lawful nor right. But I did manage to drink a fair amount of coffee and go through the local news before arriving at my destination.

Neither activity was likely to remove our concentration for extended periods of time - unlike, in my experience, talking on the phone or to a passenger, both of which actually require enormous concentration if any true communication is to occur. Even talking on the radio while moving can be dangerous if you are straining for communication. At least, for me it was. Your mileage may vary.

Now, if you ask me, doing a Sudoko in morning traffic on the San Mateo bridge isn't all that difficult. Particularly for an experienced driver. Certainly no more distracting than drinking a cup of coffee (and I find that offers next to no distraction at all).

Carly said...

Hi Wil :)

Always good to hear from you. :) That being said, you should know people I love cross that bridge every day. Every single day. While I find the humor in your comment, a part of me is disappointed in you if you mean it even just a little bit. When we are in a car... we need to be concentrating on what we are doing. DRIVING. (Cap for emphasis)

I don't remember the section in the DMV book about how to safely read/do puzzles/have sex/talk on the cell/eat lunch/or my personal favorite smoke and then flick the cancer sticks out the window. It's simply wrong. Black and white WRONG.

By the way, thanks for coming by darlin... as I said always good to hear from my favorite republican.

Carly :)

fdtate said...

A true Sudoku aficionado never puts down their puzzle book for something as mundane as driving down the freeway. The true challenge would be working the puzzle while driving, eating, and talking on your cell phone all at once.
Seriously, I'm not sure that reporting this nitwit would do much good. The police probably would not do very much unless they caught her in the act. You did the best thing under the circumstances -- got the hell away from her.

Karen Funk Blocher said...

A co-worker (this was about five jobs ago, which for me is saying something!) once told me that in her home state back east somewhere, there was a law against "Driving While Otherwise Occupied" (DWOO). I've often thought of that in the years since then. I think I agree with the others - get away from her, but don't necessarily call it in.