Dashboard Confidential – November 2019

Under the influence of microwaves

November 2019

Dave Sweetman

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I’m worried. I am worried for all of us on the highway. Car drivers, bus drivers, motorcycle riders, truck drivers. All of us.

What I see on the road every day is nothing short of terrifying. And I will bet that I am not alone. I’m not a fraidy-cat and I don’t want to hide under the covers, but we have a serious problem on the road that needs to be addressed.

For many, many years, I have been active in trying to make a difference in highway safety, not just in my driving habits but also by being involved in programs and events to teach others better behavior on the road. And it seems that no one seems to have been paying attention. Quite the opposite.

Granted, there have been efforts to increase safety awareness, but we are severely lacking in getting the message to those who need it. Every few seconds I see drivers with their faces plastered to their cellphone, looking down, pretending to hide what they are doing. But I see you, as you drift into my lane. I must take evasive action to keep from letting you hit me. It happens multiple times, every darn day.

Countless times I have seen the approaching car driver’s face lit up in blue from looking into the phone screen. If I can see a blue face, why can’t the cop? Most people think their driving is so good that they really don’t need to focus on keeping it between the lines.

You are not that good at multitasking behind the wheel. Stop it.

Do I seem like I am picking on cars? Decidedly, cars make up the largest number of threats to my everyday safety, but it is also a problem with commercial vehicle drivers. I get it. You think you are a better driver than everyone else. You have 2,000 miles to go on a route that you have done hundreds of times before. You are bored. Of course, the fines for using a handheld phone while driving a big truck are enormous, so many use hands-free, Bluetooth devices, including myself. But I still see many drivers with a phone stuck to the side of their head. All while you cross the dotted line into my lane as I am trying to pass you. Did you not get the memo? Stay in your own lane.

Practically every day I see wrecks that should not happen. I have seen inattentive car drivers smash into the car in front of them, because – wait for it – they are on the phone. I have stopped, offered myself as a witness to the innocent party. I see the feeds on Facebook with entries of rollover truck crashes, cars that have run into the back of semis – the list goes on. It is beyond scary. I mean, on a straight, dry stretch of open road, and you rolled over an 80,000-pound truck? I have seen it. Lately. Drift off to the shoulder, jerk the wheel, top heavy load, and it flops right over. The driver kicked out the windshield and crawled out. STILL ON THE PHONE! Because of distracted driving habits? How important is that phone call now?

Now that I have identified the problem, what can we do about it?

Probably not much more than we do now. Be aware of the poor driving habits of others. Watch for signs of distracted driving; drifting outside their lane, braking for no reason, running with their high beam headlights on. One of my habits is to watch the mirror of the truck I am about to pass to see if the driver is texting or not paying attention. When you think about it, the telltale signs are the same as for drunk driving and equally dangerous and deadly.

I highly recommend getting a dash camera and keep it active, up and running. It may save your bacon. It’s hard to dispute video evidence. I could write a book on the dash cam stories I have heard as well as some of the video clips I have seen that show the truck driver as an innocent party. It’s a cheap investment in your security and safety.

I will pass along the last words my father told me before he left the planet. “Be careful. It’s a jungle out there.” LL