Top News

EDITORIAL: Eyes on the road

Texting while driving is against the law.
Texting while driving is a dangerous — and all too common — practice. — 123RF Stock Photo

It was seconds from tragedy last Thursday on Larkhall Street in St. John’s, just where O’Brien’s Hill comes into Larkhall. A quiet, residential neighbourhood, in past the school. A female driver in a charcoal-grey four-door sedan, heading away from the mall. A pedestrian, a young woman, dressed all in dark clothing, absolutely obvious against the high banks of white snow, heading for the mall, with no way to step any further out of the way.

Snowbanks were high next to the pedestrian, no clear sidewalks, but it was a bright morning after a solid day of snow.

The driver of the car was looking down at her phone in her lap and didn’t see the black silhouette against all that white snow. The car came forward at speed, literally straight at the pedestrian, who could only stop in place. When the driver did notice, she locked the brakes up and you could see the front wheels turn away from the pedestrian, but the street was white with ice, and the car did not respond.

Only a few feet from hitting the young woman, the wheels found traction somehow and the car yawed away from an almost-certain collision.

The driver of the car was looking down at her phone in her lap and didn’t see the black silhouette against all that white snow.

Late in December, we ran stories describing how 80 per cent of motor vehicle accidents can be avoided with something as simple as one extra second of response time. Response times shorten as you drive faster — but being distracted by your cellphone, or readings texts obliterates response time altogether. In fact, some studies suggest that distraction by texting doubles reaction time, and other studies indicate it makes you a more dangerous driver than people just drunk enough to be impaired drivers.

Yet you see it every single day. Drivers with their faces down, as if driving a car was no more important or involved than sitting on a park bench scrolling through your Twitter feed.

On Larkhall Street last Thursday, there was no disaster, no traumatic injury, no years of regret for running down someone doing something as simple and everyday as heading to work — over something as simple and as unimportant as a text.

But it wasn’t that way because of luck or diligence or a driver taking due care.

If it had happened, you couldn’t even have truly called it an accident, because the driver’s negligence was so clear, so pronounced.

It was sheer, blind luck that saved someone from serious injury or worse, and nothing more.

And it happens every single day in this city and province.

Ask yourself right now: what kind of text is so important that you have to look at it right now, even if it puts someone’s life at risk?

The answer is simple: there is no such text.

We have to start giving driving the full attention it deserves.

Recent Stories