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October 1, 2014 / 7 Tishri, 5775
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Driving While Distracted

At this moment, in cities, towns and neighborhoods across the country, someone’s mother,
child, friend, or spouse glances impatiently at the clock, only to have flashes of mild annoyance chill into icy pricks of worry and fear. An eventual knock on the door results in a welcome surge of relief, only to cruelly dissipate as grimed faced police officers present themselves and utter words that forever annihilate the listener’s peace of mind.

Another life has been snuffed out or been seriously damaged by the self-indulgent actions of a
stranger. A beloved person has been prematurely torn away because of another person’s irresponsibility behind the wheel.

In the past, most of the avoidable carnage on the roads was caused by drunk driving. While that is still a big factor in vehicular manslaughter, an increasing danger comes from seemingly innocuous activities.

These activities include eating while driving, putting on makeup, reading newspapers or office
reports, doing homework, changing radio stations or CDs, looking at the passenger beside you or in the back seat, and speaking on a cell phone.

In my view, people who yak away while driving are just about as impaired as drunk drivers. When I say yakking – I am referring to those individuals who chat almost non-stop from the time they get into the car. Although hand held phones have been outlawed in some states, many do not have this safeguard in place. And furthermore, since when has the threat of a
ticket or fine stopped people from doing what they felt like doing? “Serial chatterers,” with cell phone in hand, heedlessly go their merry chirpy way.

I understand that sometimes people answer the phone – they do not initiate the call, and once
ascertaining that the conversation can wait – put the phone down. I also concede that sometimes there is no place to safely pull over when receiving or making an important call. These drivers’ concentration is usually interrupted for a brief moment or two, and they
quickly get back on track.

It is very disturbing to see car pool mothers, their vans full of small children, trying to negotiate
left-turns while their heads are angled and tilted as they balance the phone on their shoulder. It is distressing to see drivers who excitedly talk with their hands, intent on the sound coming from the other end of their phones, with stock market quotes or juicy gossip filling their ears. Instead of being focused on the road, their attention is absorbed by the conversation.

Their ability to drive alertly is severely compromised, and this impaired ability is self afflicted and totally preventable. One can only come to the conclusion that they do indeed have a serious “impairment,” albeit an emotional one, not physical one - a pathological selfishness that translates into a blatant disregard for the public well-being.

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Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/driving-while-distracted/2004/01/14/

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