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Mike Redmond Column

Please refer to the Mike Redmond Column main page for columns published in other issues.
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 A Word to the Wise: Practice Safe Text

And in other news that makes you go "Duh," a recent study has concluded that sending text messages while driving is kind of dangerous.

All together now:


Actually, there was something more "Huh" than "Duh" about the study, performed by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute: Truckers are 5.9 times more likely to crash; auto drivers, 2.8 times.

This is not exactly comforting, for the following reasons:

            * Trucks are big. When they crash, they crash big. The fact that texting puts them at an even greater risk of a Big Crash just went onto my list of Reasons To Avoid The Interstate When Possible.

            * Some numbskull is going to look at those numbers and conclude that because 2.8 is smaller than 5.9, it is 3.1 times more okay to text while driving a car.

            * I recently saw where texting had also been cited in a one-vehicle accident involving my preferred mode of transport, a motorcycle. Once they start collecting data on that phenomenon, it’s going to make the truck number look laughably small. I’m thinking the likelihood of crashing while riding a motorcycle and texting is going to be in the neighborhood of - oh, let me think -- 100 percent.

Am I overreacting? I don’t think so. Properly-trained motorcyclists, among which I proudly number myself, are by and large a fairly observant bunch of people, and we have observed some pretty strange things going on behind the steering wheels of those with whom we share the road (but who are not always so willing to share it with us).

I personally have seen:

            * Drivers reading newspapers in cars moving at or above the posted speed limit.

            * One driver reading Playboy, which I believe counts as two distractions for the price of one.

            * Dental hygiene involving a flosser and the rear view mirror. At speed.

            * Makeup application, shaving, and eyebrow plucking. I’ve also seen women doing this.

            * Yes, I have also seen the first thing you thought of, and shame on you.

All of which are a long way from the old Driver’s Training dictates of hands at 10 and 2 on the wheel, feet on the gas pedal and floor, and eyes roaming constantly from road to mirrors to gauges and back again. Now it’s the hands that are roaming while the elbows and knees control the wheel, the feet go along for the ride and the road goes pretty much ignored.

People want to outlaw texting while driving. Great idea, but it still means you have to catch the idiots doing it. I have another solution: Outlaw the automatic transmission in passenger cars.

You’d cut down on a lot of nonsense. Automatics make it way too easy to think you can multi-task while driving. With a manual, you have to be engaged - both hands, both feet, both eyes and even ears. No way can you safely text message, or do much of anything else, while shifting through pattern of four or five on the floor.

Or, for that matter, 18 on the floor. As the Virginia study shows.

Until we get this problem solved, it’s up to us to watch out for ourselves. Toward that end I offer some advice:

Hands on the wheel, eyes on the road, and above all, always - ALWAYS - practice safe text.




© 2009 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.