Trusted local news leader for Kingman, Arizona & Mohave County
Sun, March 24

Column: Your cell phone use is driving me crazy

Kingman has a lot of bad drivers. Wait, let me rephrase that. I have no idea how well they can drive. Let's say, Kingman has a lot of drivers who demonstrate bad habits when they're behind the wheel. That's probably more accurate, though, the end result is the same: Get the H-e-double hockey sticks out of their way!

I used to think all those people driving erratically around here were on meth. I figured that if I could successfully get around them, I had saved a life ... my own. Some looked the part: the beat-up pickup truck from the '70s; the car with dents all over it, maybe a smashed-in bumper, cracked windshield, one window broken out, something hanging from a bent antenna, obscene stickers plastered on the back. They might as well put a big sign on the car: "Police, please pull me over."

But this is 2010, and while many here may actually be on methamphetamines, most of the people I see anymore driving erratically have just one thing in common: a damn cell phone growing out of their ear. It never fails. When the idiot in front of me is moving too slow, cell phone. When I see a car weaving to one side, cell phone. When the pinhead decides to camp at the four-way stop, cell phone. It's become a game that makes me cringe when I play. How many morons on cell phones can I count on my way to work today?

I must admit, I've answered my cell from time to time while driving, but it's a habit I've forced myself to break. I figure any call will wait. You see, most (all) cell phones have this neat device which records the number of the caller, so you can call them back later, when you're not at the helm of a two-ton mostly metal motor vehicle. Or pull off into a parking lot. There's a bunch of them all over town.

I've come to the conclusion that two major forces are behind this problem. The first is the need to multitask. As humans in the new millennium, we are expected to be able to multitask. Heck, most of us would lose our jobs if we couldn't do 10 things at one time. Unfortunately, we've taken this "stay busy" desire with us when we get behind the wheel. At a time when we should be single-tasking - driving the damn car - we're conducting business, or talking with Aunt Helen, or yelling at our kids on the phone.

This phenomenon is nothing new, really. There's always been people who believe they can do 100 things while driving. From putting on make-up, to scanning the morning paper, to stuffing their face with a burrito, it's a no-brainer for them. I've lived in big cities before, and the things you see during rush hour makes you want to sell your car and buy a horse. The problem, however, has gotten worse as technology has improved.

The second is simple inconsideration. We just don't care about other people. Our lives are much more important than theirs. We're big shots. We drive big trucks, make a lot of money, live fascinating lives. We don't have time to pay attention to the road while we're driving. We figure that if we get in an accident, odds are our elite status, coupled with our financial security, will pretty much get us out of any scrape.

For others not so wealthy, they just don't care, period. They've been raised to care about themselves first, friends and family second, and pretty much no one else after that. They're the ones who are totally shocked when they crash into someone. Their first impulse is to flee, with no concern about whether someone may be hurt. If they're OK, then everything is peachy.

While the multitasking problem can be somewhat controlled by law enforcement, consideration for others is about impossible to teach when so many kids are ingrained with disrespect from the very beginning. I could write a book on what I think about the lack of parenting skills in our society, and it would sit on the shelf next to the thousands of other books on the subject. Unfortunately, we continue to accept this behavior as just a part of living in a "free" country. It's hogwash, certainly, but it's the bed we've made, so we are forced to sleep in it.

I would love to buy a paint gun and tag the cars driven by people on cell phones, but I save that for my daydreams, because I would certainly end up in jail, or worse, cause the very accident I'm trying to avoid. No, I keep that "wish" to myself, in the same place where I keep the desire to buy a huge retractable mirror that I could raise on the back of my car when people come up on me with their high beams on. Maybe in my next life.

You may have noticed by now that I've said nothing about texting while driving. That is so stupid it doesn't deserve attention. If you text while driving, you're an idiot. Your luck will run out eventually. I just pray it doesn't run out when you're next to me on the road.

Prayer is definitely a task I'd gladly give up, at least while I'm driving. Drivers here, however, are bringing me closer to God every day.


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