I learned to drive in 1990 when my biggest fear on the road was the drunk drivers in Staten Island. In high school, in driver’s ed, and on billboards around town, M.A.D.D. (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) messages were shoved down our throats. By 16, this scare tactic had successfully inflicted fear against drunk driving, AIDS, and teenage pregnancy.
I reflect on those days nostalgically as I ponder the frightening epidemic on our American roads: texting and driving.
I’m perpetually enraged by drivers filling the roads with their entitled, less than sacred bodies; huge metal murdering devices and phones with which they cannot separate. On a daily basis, I cross The George Washington Bridge, the country’s busiest span and gasp in horror as I see slowed-down, weaving cars FaceTiming as they cross the bridge. Texting and driving are dangerous and illegal and both republicans and democrats agree on it. Yet almost every car around me is doing it and no tickets are being issued, even though police officers see it everywhere. Is it beyond containment and regulation at this point?
On today’s roads, you have to be better than an alert driver, you have to be a proactive, partially ESP driver, anticipating the moves of the violators around you. I’m constantly peeking into the dark-tinted windows of fellow drivers to confirm my suspicions. The huge gap between them and the car in front of them is caused by a quick Facebook check. Or if weaving lanes, clearly a text back to the wife. Yes, it is sad that a husband leaves for work too early to see his children, but please don’t risk my life in your morning’s illegal bad habit which jeopardizes my life, my children’s life and every other citizen on the road.
We all want to be the exception to the rule. We all think we’re better drivers who wouldn’t be distracted. We just don’t account for the others. On my 17th birthday, I enthusiastically got my license (passed the road test on the first try!) and every time I left the house, my father would say, “Drive safely,” and I would sigh deeply, thinking he didn’t trust me or think I was a good enough driver. Yet he reassured me time and time again. “It’s not you I’m worried about, it’s all the other guys.”
Twenty-five years later, I genuinely feel terrorized by these distracted drivers. As if the built-in navigation and iPhones aren’t distraction enough, some cars play movies in the backseat! Above all, over two million Americans are on the road while taking anti-anxiety medicine. Even though warnings boldly proclaim against driving under pharmaceutical delusion, they don’t think the drug could impair their motor vehicle functions. But it does; I’ve tried. Anti-anxiety medication works to “decrease abnormal excitement in the brain.” Translation: delayed reactions.
I am not sure how it will change. If police officers need to get quotas like they have for parking tickets or how many more people will have to die. I’ve contemplating campaigning for MADD to change their acronym to stand for “Mothers Against Distracted Driving” because the state of our roads has taken a dangerous curve in the last quarter century.
Nine Americans a day are killed from texting and driving. 3,285 mothers buried their children last year because it was more important for someone to look down at a little screen while operating a vehicle than to wait and not kill a human. How many deaths are enough to make people stop this nonsense and make a change? As a whole, I think we can agree on the morality of valuing human life over gadgets, yet this still happens. I’d say invent technology which restricts texting in the car but what we really need is an app for self-control.