Saturday, July 05, 2008

Hands off!

So you're driving, and some moron is swerving around in front of you. Slow down. Speed up. Slow down. Then s/he veers into your lane, completely cutting you off. Profanities (yours) fly in the air around you. And since it's before noon you figure s/he is sober, so there's just one other possibility.

That's right. The cellphone. Driving while chatting is especially challenging for those who are holding the phone with one hand and gesturing wildly with the other. Yet, those are always the people who are right in front of me.

Yes, yes, I also have been guilty of talking while driving. Sometimes it's the only chance I have to talk to anybody over the age of 4 1/2. Or maybe I'm just calling to check the timing of a playdate or whatever.

There was this one particular time when I was trying to call the editor of a freelance piece I was doing. I was using a Trio, which I'd just gotten, and I had no clue how it worked. I might have sailed through a red light - when the car in the other direction had a green left turn arrow. Luckily, he stopped, and I swerved and somehow missed slamming into a minivan. Scared the bejeebus out of me.

Anyway, this is no longer a problem. Why? Well, yeah, I got rid of the Trio. But California, as of July 1st, has made it illegal to talk on a handheld cell phone while driving.

And they aren't joking. Police are handing out tickets faster than you can say, "But, but, officer!"

No excuses. So when Cindy called me just before 6:30 on Friday morning, as I was on my way to meet her and Torrey for my run, I hit speaker phone and shouted "What, are you trying to get me arrested?"

Thing is, I don't get the whole bluetooth thing. Despite David's best efforts, I can't figure out how to work it. What do I push? How do I do it? I'm more distracted trying to flail at my ear than I ever was holding the stupid phone!

But apparently, this hands-free ordinance is a good one. According to scientists at Carnegie Mellon University, listening to a conversation while driving reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent (okay, but wait. Are they also including listening to small children while driving? Because I have to say, acknowledging every make of car on the road that Sawyer can point out - "Look, Mommy, a BMW! Did you see it? Did you? Oh! There's a Lexus. Mommy! Did you see it?" - while Sage is singing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star at the top of her apparently opera-singer sized lungs from the back seat isn't exactly conducive of concentration. Just sayin'.).

You watch drivers now, and they're all sporting some sort of device hanging out of their ear, like some sort of weird tribal marking. Or maybe a gang tag.

Now I have to figure out what to do with my suddenly liberated hand. Cause, you know, keeping two hands on the steering wheel is so Driver's Ed!

I guess the next time some cellphone-holding, law-flouting crazy cuts me off, it'll be no effort at all to reward him with a hearty, unencumbered one-fingered salute.


Melissa said...

OMG, What the He!! am I supposed to do with my stupid blue tooth thingy??!! I've had it for 3 months already and still haven't figured it out. Now, I just don't answer my phone at all while on the road. I mean, if I'm going to have to pay a ticket, let it be for something good - like drag racing or using the carpool lane when I'm all alone and really, really late.

Just J said...

I am surprised that this is a new law in CA. We have had a law like this in NY since 2001! Studies on how cell phone usage affects driving go back to the 90s. It is a good law. Even scary are people texting while driving, especially the kids/teenagers.

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