Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Texting could be costly

I got my first cell phone back in 2002 after a major medical situation caused me to want to have emergency help relatively nearby.  I had no intentions of using a phone except in an emergency.  While I was at it, I got a phone for my wife, too, so she also could summons help in an emergency.

That phone was long before today's Smart Phones.  It did not have a built in camera, but it did have some texting capability.  I had already bought some minutes, I think it was a 300/month plan, so Gator Wife and I decided that we'd use the phone to let the other know why we may be later than expected at places.  That worked out very well. 

That summer, we had scheduled a short trip to Pennsylvania, one of our favorite vacation places. Gee! We had this cell phone with nationwide calling and only charged for air time.  We had yet another use for it, to keep our daughter informed of what we were doing. 

Then there was another good use for it.  I have periodic blood tests for various reasons and by using the phone from anywhere in the country, we could have draws taken at hospitals anywhere (my doctor had given me a blanket prescription) and then call the doc's office for the results and changes in medications, etc.

The cell phone had become part of our lives.

But we always stop the car if we're driving before we use the phone.

That decision came about because in the early weeks of getting one; I naturally wanted to give it a try in the car.  One day as I was driving to my daughter's house in Portland, I decided to call her to let her know I was on my way.  The call ended as I turned onto her street.  And then it hit me.  I had no idea on how I got there.  The time from when I started onto the Interstate in Scarborough until I reached North Deering in Portland was a total blank.  To this day I only remember the beginning of the call and the end.

I vowed never to fool myself in thinking I could use the phone while driving again.  It is a vow that I've never broken.  I always pull over and stop before attempting a phone call from my car.

I still have just a basic phone.  It is texting capable, but I've had the phone company shut off all texting, both incoming and outgoing, on the phone.

I live on a street that intersects with U.S. Route 1.  A traffic light coordinates the intersection, but everyone in my neighborhood has learned that just because we may have a green light, it may not be safe to go.  I've seen up to four, even five cars drive right through the Route 1 red light without the drivers even slowing or looking.  If three pass, two or all three of the drivers are either conversing on their phone or glancing down as if texting. 

Drive just about anywhere and you'll see the same scene.  The state calls it "distracted driving."  I say it's an accident looking for a place to happen.  Until today the law didn't specifically define texting as distracted driving.  Now texting while driving is a traffic offense punishable by a fine of at least $100.  That new law which bans texting while driving is now in effect and police say they will vigorously enforce it.

Smart Phone users have the ability to get an App to help them avoid texting.  The app determines the speed of a car and either stops the phone from texting or sends a message that the phone is temporarily unavailable.  This description is not exact, but you get the idea.

I think the new law is a good start to solving the distracted driving problem, but I'd like to see the use of phones by drivers outlawed altogether.  This attitude doesn't make me friends, but I'm selfish;  I'd prefer the safety when I'm in my car.

I often wonder just how I made it through nearly three-quarters of a century without having a phone planted in my ear.  I remember when people could have discussions face to face.  Hard to do today.  How many times have you seen people, especially young people, walking side by side texting each other?

Remember, texting while driving is now against the law in Maine.  If you get caught, you will face at least a one hundred dollar fine.


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