I read an interesting story online at the Associated Press Tuesday that I felt like sharing.
The headline was, "California man shoots his way out of sinking SUV," and the story was the stuff of action movies.
According to the AP report, a 28-year old man, whose name was not immediately released, was driving down the road when his hands-free cell phone device went off. This occurence apparently so startled the driver that he swerved off the road and into a creek. Unable to open the doors to his car, which was rapidly filling with water, the man shot out one of the vehicle's windows with a pistol and escaped.
While I have just shared the story with you, the first people I wanted to share it with were my family and friends. So, as many people do now, I went on Facebook and posted the story, with a witty reference to a popular action star.
Then I put my cell phone down in the passenger seat next to me and returned my attention to driving. It was at that moment that I was overcome by a slightly embarrassing sense of irony.
You see, my wife and I recently upgraded to "smart phones," with all the bells and whistles you could want. (Actually, the Bells and Whistles App was available to download for just $1.99.) And while I may be a bit of a "Johnny-come-lately" to the iPhone craze, I'm apparently wasting no time learning all the bad habits that seem to come with owning one.
On my drive into work on the first day after purchasing the phones, I decided to check the AP and update my Facebook page at 70 miles per hour. I can't really say how much weaving I did on the road during this time, because I really don't remember the 10 miles or so I covered while playing with my phone.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has a Web site, Distraction.gov, dedicated to warning drivers of the dangers of distracted driving.
According to statistics provided on that site (obtained from the safety of my couch), in 2008, nearly 6,000 people were killed in vehicle accidents that involved distracted driving, and another 500,000 were injured.
Don't think you could become one of those stastics? Consider this: According to a study conducted by the University of Utah, using a cell phone while driving, whether it's hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver's reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent.
While everyone agrees that drinking and driving is wrong, we often only consider the dangers of distracted driving when we see the "idiot" in the next lane weaving while checking his email. The problem is, all too often we are that idiot to someone else.
It should be common sense, but if we focus more on driving and less on our phones, everyone can get where they're going a little more safely. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some more bells and whistles to download.
Christopher Maher is the Managing Editor for the Nueces County Record Star. Readers may contact him at (361) 664-6588.