A few weeks ago, while motoring down the Long Island Expressway one weekday morning, the driver in front of me slammed his brakes. I did, too, but fearing I could not slow enough, veered left.
There was a car in that lane and I struck it as both of us drove about 60 miles per hour, causing no injuries but moderate damage to both vehicles.
That’s what I told myself, my wife and daughter, my boss, and the cop, and my pals. It’s true, but it’s not the truth.
I was messing with my phone.
Nope, still dissembling.
Just before I smashed into another vehicle, terrifying and endangering the driver who was using his employer’s car to deliver flowers, I was typing a text message on my phone, knowingly committing a dangerous, illegal act.
The cop who responded to the crash never asked about my phone. It never occurred to me to tell him.
Because in my mind, I don’t text and drive.
In my mind, I’m the good guy furious at the other unspeakable people who phone-futz furiously while driving. About 30 minutes before this accident, I reacted to the distracted-driving habits of another driver with honks, curses and muttered threats about putting someone’s bleeping bleep through … significant stress.
There’s a lot of that going around.
A study conducted by The Harris Poll and Volvo in 2019 that used both driver surveys and monitoring of car communication systems found that while 53% of Americans believe distracted driving is the biggest threat on the road, 90% say they talk on their cell while driving.
About 60% say they send and receive texts.
Texting while driving is like driving drunk. Everyone opposes the act, even if they commit it.
And often we feed our self-deception with easy lies.
- "I’m super careful when I’m texting while driving!" (These words, in this order, have literally no meaning.)
- "I don’t send texts while driving, I just read them." (Unless someone asks a question, then you HAVE to answer, right?)
- "I only text when stopped at red lights." (Or right before lights … or right after … and in slow traffic … and when there’s no traffic.)
- "I drive a lot, I’m used to it!" (Explain that to the kindly 33-year-old flower delivery guy you wrecked.)
- "I’ll do better!" (When?)
We do this in so many facets of life, angered when others commit acts we’re guilty of. A jerk idling double-parked, blocking me, deserves an angry honk. A guy who honks at me while I’m forced to double-park, just for a moment, to handle my crucial Jamaican meat pie purchases?
Why I oughta ...
Consider our varying responses to the standstill exit lane from the Grand Central Parkway to the LIE. On our patient Sunday-driving days when we merge early, we judge the last-minute creeps muscling in with 25 feet to spare to be pond scum.
But when we’re late? "Look buddy, you might have all day to waste in line but I’ve got knitting club in seven minutes."
Our innate self-centeredness, that feeling we have that the world is a movie about our lives in which all others have supporting roles, can’t hold sway with something as dangerous as distracted driving.
I can’t quit texting while driving until I fully admit that I frequently do text while driving, accept that there is nothing uniquely special about my driving that makes it safe to do so, and make a behavioral change that stops it.
Ring a bell?
Columnist Lane Filler’s opinions are his own.