I have a confession, something that’s been bugging me lately and needs to come out in order for me to break the habit.
I sometimes text while I drive.
I know it’s dangerous from an intellectual standpoint because the state has enacted a law against it. I know it’s dangerous from an experiential standpoint because I’ve had multiple incidents that scared the living crap out of me.
But when I’m pressed, I’ll still pull that stupid phone out to send a message whilst piloting a hunk of metal and plastic through traffic at 50 MPH.
I’d like to think I’m not a butthole. Surveys suggest most people find me to actually be a fairly decent person, as far as social interactions are concerned. I hold doors open for others. I address people respectfully. I avoid saying and doing things if I know it will hurt someone’s feelings. So it’s not that I’m a selfish jerk.
But I am self-absorbed. And, chances are, so are you.
I know this because I drive on the roads with you. I see you run through yellow and red lights as if there’s still a faint hint of green showing. I see it when you are impatient at the four-way stop on Oak Grove and Hope Hollow. Or at the four-way stop on Ridgedale and Hillside. Or at the intersection of Lakeside and 84. Or — God help us all — trying to turn left onto 84 from Rosebud.
I get frustrated in those same places too. In fact, I’m so frequently frustrated that I don’t even have to get frustrated anymore: my kids actually yell at other drivers from the backseat for me.
I’ve been thinking about writing on how horrible we are collectively as drivers since November 8th. My family was coming home to Grayson on Sugarloaf Parkway on that rainy afternoon, and we were obeying the speed limit in the right hand lane. Just taking our time. Minding our business.
A driver in the left-hand turning lane suddenly decided to make a right-hand turn, right across traffic, right in front of my car. I swerved right. I braked. The driver hit us anyway, knocking our car sideways and bringing it to rest atop a sewer. Everyone, including the other driver, was physically fine. That’s not the point of the story.
The point is that the other driver didn’t think anything about cutting across two lanes of traffic from the left-hand turn lane because that was the shortest route to their destination.
Needless to say, that driver was held accountable by a ticket. And the cost of my car repairs. And the increase in insurance rates.
But two days later, still kind of shaken from the experience, I had two other drivers nearly swerve into my lane and hit me head on. Had couple of others struggle with keeping their car in their lane so as not to sideswipe me. For the longest time, it’s seemed as if many people have struggled with cranial rectitus — the dreaded head-up-your-butt disease. And when you’re talking about near-misses, it may just seem as if I’m shaking my metaphorical fists at the kids on my lawn.
Then, on Tuesday, we saw a tragic traffic incident claim the life of a young woman. She died because someone hit the motorcycle on which she was riding.
Why was the motorcycle hit?
Because the other driver made an illegal u-turn across traffic.
My texts. Someone else’s need to turn. Your radio. Someone’s kid screaming in the backseat. Someone else simply having a horrible day, or yet someone else being tired after a long shift at work. We all have our reasons, but none of them are good. None of them are justifiable. When we get in our cars, we are accountable for more than ourselves; we are accountable for the people with whom we share the roadway. No text, no missed turn, no appointment for which we’re late, no Taylor Swift song being played for the 9,000th time is worth someone else’s life.
We have to do better on the roads. I have to do better on the roads. Lives depend on it.
I am promising to #DriveForOthers – will you do the same?