Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hang Up and Read This

Now that spring and longer days have arrived, I'm back to riding my bike on a regular basis. Last week, I was riding on Coast Village Road in the middle of the day. When I got to a stop sign I looked over to my left at the car next to me. It was an older sedan that was the size of a land yacht and had "no insurance" written all over it. The only occupant was the driver, a woman who with one hand was holding the steering wheel. With the other hand she was holding her cell phone pressed to her ear and was talking away.

Both of her windows were down and when we reached the next stop sign I was tempted to yell into the car and say something like, "You're not supposed to be talking on the phone while you're driving!" I've done things along those lines before. Not sure that I got my point across but at least I had the satisfaction of knowing I tried to do something about it.

This time I decided not to. After all, just like you don't want to honk somebody off who is packing a pistol, this women had one hand on the controls of a 2,000 pound guided missile and I together with my sub-20 pound bike am only a potato chip or two over 200. Sometimes the most judicious thing to do is to just zip it.

Fast forward to Monday when an article appeared on the front page of the News-Press that I wish I could get her and every other driver to read. It's about Bob Okerblom, a Santa Maria physician, whose son was killed two years ago by a distracted driver. His son was riding a bicycle at the time. Dr. Okerblom has just completed his own bike ride across the U.S. trying to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving.

Regardless of whether I'm on my bike, crossing the street on foot or behind the wheel of my own car, I'm constantly exasperated by the number of people who continue to flout the hands-free cell phone law. It's not like they couldn't have gotten the memo because the word has been out and well-publicized for the two or so years that the law has been in effect.

A police officer who Okerblom met on his trip probably sums it up best, "People don't change until it affects them personally," he is quoted as telling Okerblom. "Effects them personally," as in losing someone who is near or dear to them or perhaps themselves being on the receiving end of a near miss or a close call.

When out on my bike I'll continue to pick and choose my spots where I remind driving cell phone talkers that they're breaking the law, but for everyone else out there I urge you to read the News-Press article. (Yes, I just urged you to read something in the News-Press.) Since the article is on the front page you can read most of it on the newspress.com website without being a subscriber to the paper.

Oh, and there's another article about Dr. Okerblom that appeared in the Santa Maria Times as he was about to start his cross-country journey.

So please, put down the cell phone and pick up a newspaper.
© 2011 by Craig Smith and www.craigsmithsblog.com