I have a lunch routine. Less out of force of habit and more out of having enough experience in life to know what I like. I grab enough groceries at the beginning of the work week to make my lunches for the week. This was easy when there was a grocery store on the first floor of the building where my office was. But a couple of years ago we moved about 1/4 of a mile down the street.
Now that warm weather is upon us, I walk down to Ferri’s IGA Supermarket on Mondays to grab my groceries. Another thing that starts up again in the spring, Major League Baseball, prompts me to play a game as I walk West facing the Eastbound traffic. I count the number of drivers looking at their cellphones while driving.
My count goes something like this: 0 for 1; 0 for 2; 1 for 3; 1 for 4; 2 for 5; 3 for 6…and so on. You get it. It’s the same way baseball player batting averages are counted. Only the first number I count is not a hit. It is a motorist looking at their phone in their hand. The second number is the total number of vehicles that go by.
As vehicles fly by, some a little faster than others (the speed limit is only 25 by the way!), I can see the driver for a couple of seconds. That is long enough to see if they are looking at the road or their phone. And a disappointingly surprising number of drivers are looking at their phone. And when I say disappointing, remember that I am a Pittsburgh Pirates fan. So I am used to disappointing averages! But in this case the averages are disappointingly high.
My recent counts were: 3 for 26; 3 for 27; 2 for 18; 4 for 31. This very unscientific observation results in an average of 0.118. If that were a position player for the Pittsburgh Pirates, they would unfortunately probably be safe on the roster! But almost 12% of people driving on one small stretch in Murrysville while looking at their phone is way too high. We can definitely do better than that.
April was National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. You might not have noticed if you were celebrating National Canine Fitness Month or National Fresh Celery Month or International Guitar Month or one of the many other causes highlighted last month. Maybe the 12 people that I first-hand witnessed looking at their phone instead of the road, were not aware April was National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. But should we all need that reminder? Is it ok to pay attention to something like this for one month a year? No way. This is too important.
Insurance companies have statistics and infographics about how far your vehicle travels in the 2 seconds your eyes are off of the road. If you were travelling the proper speed limit on Old William Penn Highway, you would travel 6 car lengths in 2 seconds. If you were speeding, you would have seen even less of the road.
Go to a plaintiff attorney website and you can find a table showing how fast a car travels in one second at different speeds. They showcase these tables to attract clients they want to represent who have been injured by a distracted driver! You don’t want to be the reason their client is engaging an attorney.
The next time you are a passenger in a car on a road you are familiar with, do an experiment. Look at the road ahead and then close your eyes and count to 2. Remember – only if you are a passenger! Open your eyes and look how far down the road you are. A lot can happen in that distance. Even if you are properly insured, you can’t afford the time and emotional toll of being the cause of a distracted driving accident. The text can wait.
Make this change in your own life and set the example for your passengers. Bad habits can be broken, and in this case the cost could be life or death. Consider this gentle warning. Take extra care next Monday if you’re driving Eastbound on Old William Penn Highway. I don’t want to catch you slipping up on my walk to the Ferri’s. Please don’t ruin my lunch.