Guest Scrogue Rho Holden is a frequent S&R commenter who lives and works in the greater Denver metro area.
Check out the results of this recent report on the qualifications of American drivers:
…if a test administered by GMAC Insurance is any indication, one in six people cruising our highways and byways — roughly 36 million licensed drivers — would flunk their driver’s test if they had to take it today.
One in six. This is especially scary given how easy the test is, because a lot of people who pass the test wouldn’t if it were sufficiently stringent.
Before I start ranting let me provide a bit of background about why this particular question concerns me. Iâ€™ve been driving since early 1982 and in the last 26 years I have been hit 17 times while in an automobile, once while on foot and yet another time while on a bicycle. None of these accidents were deemed to be my fault and at least five of the cases involved drunk drivers (three where I was driving and both when I wasnâ€™t). Thatâ€™s the background, but not the “why now?” That has to do with a little mathematical equation I’ve been working on: Cell Phones + Driving = Darwinâ€™s Proof.
None of the accidents I’ve been involved in involved cell phones (to my knowledge), but in the past several months drivers in the Denver area have been trying to do something about that. I’ve had several close calls with cell-using idiot drivers, but there are two in particular that stand out.
The first one happened toward the end of the evening rush hour as I was heading north on I-25, leaving the Denver metro area. I was in a 65 mph zone traveling with the flow of traffic at about 70 mph. All of a sudden I see a silver BMW sedan coming behind me like I was standing still. He closes to within about 10 feet behind me, then slingshots around me in a move that would impress Jeff Gordon. I look to my left as he screams past and what I see is as enraging as it is terrifying. He’s holding a cell phone to his ear with his left hand and his right hand is holding a hamburger. As far as I can tell this means he’s steering with his knees. Not only is he going at least 15 mph faster than the rest of us during a high-traffic period (I-25 Northbound during rush hour can be extremely packed), heâ€™s not paying attention and his hands aren’t on the wheel.
The other case was even worse. A few days later I was heading into Denver, with a moderate traffic flow, on a Saturday morning. A Subaru wagon merges onto the highway. Instead of settling into his lane, though, he drifts across into my lane, forcing me to veer left and causing the car behind me to have to slam on his brakes to avoid crashing into me. The Subaru still doesn’t react, so I then have to hit my brakes to avoid getting slammed into the concrete divider.
I could see he wasnâ€™t paying any attention. He didnâ€™t check his mirrors or even look at the other traffic he was affecting. No, he was on his cell phone. The woman in the passenger seat was oblivious, too; she was fixing her makeup in the vanity mirror. So far this isn’t any worse than the Beemer incident. But then I notice the car seat in the back. It was the type used for newborns or very young babies. I could see a little fist waving through the window so I knew it was occupied, but the seat itself was waggling back and forth, obviously not properly attached.
If I’d had my cell phone with me I would have pulled over and called 911 immediately, but I didn’t.
I’m sure most readers have experienced as bad or worse, although hopefully you haven’t been hit as many times as I have. It’s getting worse, too. In 2007 both Washington and New Jersey felt it necessary to pass laws making it illegal to text while driving. That seems like common sense to me, but apparently not everyone agrees. In my opinion, anyone who texts while driving is a prime candidate for a Darwin Award.
I just hope they don’t any innocent bystanders with them.