When death comes calling

Ken Simmons
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It was a big Dodge SUV, maybe a Durango, and although he was headed east and we were going west, that big Dodge was fully halfway into my lane.
Dearest and I celebrated our anniversary as we often do; reminding each other of the date and laughing at how we need the reminders, 19 years on. Having run a few errands that afternoon, we were headed home. That trek takes us along a two-lane bypass road. A thin ribbon of paint separates the two, and that is no separation at all if an oncoming vehicle has cause to cross the line.

Not that this driver had cause, as such. There was no mechanical failure, or sudden obstacle that inspired the off-course excursion. And the fact this was a Durango is irrelevant, other than to illustrate the frightening potential for destruction it or any similarly massive projectile might carry.

We slowed and turned to the rail, squeezing right to open an imaginary lane, when the driver cut his own wheel, corrected his vector and headed off none the worse for his near-death experience. And he did it all with one hand.

The other hand was busy, after all. Clutching a cellphone.

This came just a few days after a blonde woman in a black GMC Terrain rolled past me on a divided highway, well into the 120-km/h range, staring at her phone and pecking the screen with impeccably manicured fingers.

I have said before I believe all drivers should spend time on two wheels before graduating to four. You will never feel so vulnerable as you will riding, small and exposed, amidst heavy traffic on a weekday morning.

Maybe that experience would help us all learn how important it is to give the task of driving your undivided attention. Maybe. I don't know if it would work, but it couldn't do a worse job than our current system of barely enforced laws and political indifference.

The distractions we experience when just using a phone - even hands-free - have been proven just as detrimental as driving drunk. Yet you can't drive half a kilometre without seeing someone engaged in a very important conversation about Oprah, or the Leafs, or the price of beer.

Fortunately, we do not encounter the same number of drunks at the wheel day by day. Governments worked to escalate punishment for DUI, and campaigned to help citizens understand the dangers. Police work hard to keep impaired drivers off the street, and society has benefited from the increased stigma driving drunk now carries.

Ending this plague of distraction will take the same effort from government and law enforcement. Until we get it, driving will be that much more dangerous, and each one of us will be that much less likely to make it home any day of the week.

Ken Simmons, The Telegram's new media editor, breathes exhaust and exhales clean, fresh air. Twitter @Ken_Simmons_NL/Tumblr


Organizations: The Telegram

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