May 17, 2013

It can certainly wait, mom and dad.

I usually don't jump on bandwagons.... (ok, I probably do more than I'm willing to admit.)... whatever.  However, after countless busy months for me, I'm finally back into something resembling a routine with regards to riding to-and-from work.  It feels GREAT... except for one small thing.  Perhaps it's always been there and I've neglected to notice; but, I've recently noticed quite a few folks texting-and-driving in my immediate vicinity during my commutes.  Instead of ranting wildly about it, I'd like to take a moment to get behind the "It Can Wait" program:  originally initiated by AT&T a couple years back and now supported by nearly all the major wireless players and about 200 other organizations, this program exists as an outreach mechanism to end texting-and-driving.  The stats and stories are compelling, and their webpage has it all.  Give it a look.  If you have teen drivers, give it a look with them.  Talk about it... and be a grown-up:  I'll get to that later.

From a bicyclist's perspective, specifically, this represents a message worth spreading.  Just as I don't personally prefer jerseys slathered with corporate logos, I'm not much on bumper stickers, either.... but something like the logo above laminated into a spoke card, or something to hang from the rear panniers comes to mind.  Drivers behind me would do one of two things:  ignore it, the way they ignore everything else cycling-related... including us riders... or, read it in the context of someone usually occupying the area of the road where (I'd wager) 50% of texting-while-driving drivers tend to wander towards when they aren't watching the road.  This is based on the assumption that the other 50% would be slowly wandering toward the center line of the road... at which point, does it really matter WHICH way they're wandering?  If they suddenly over-correct for such a move, they are again aiming for the part of the road we're riding in.  In any of the millions of scenarios and outcomes that come from playing this out, someone's going to get spooked at the VERY least... and drivers, school kids, pedestrians, joggers, the guy edging the median with a line-trimmer, the guy getting his mail from the roadside postbox, and - yes - that guy riding his bike, are all in danger.  You know the rest.

The only beef I have with this program, if I had to pick out an item to critique, is the focus on teens.  Teen drivers, interestingly, do NOT make up the majority of "bad drivers."  I wish I could find the study I recently read - I must have spaced it out - but, from my obviously imperfect sample size and scattered observations from the saddle (ninja-plug!) I have come to conclude that the largest group of offenders in the texting-while-driving category are people that oughta know better.  

Most teen drivers I see, though there are some exceptions, are NOT texting and driving.  they've heard the rhetoric.  They might be within a few degrees of someone that has sadly suffered from the social stigma that is gaining the same kind of traction as smoking cigarettes and drunk driving in teen circles.  Many times I will see them at a stop-light, sitting idle, and checking their phones, yes, ... but upon rolling, they are (apparently) putting the devices down and resuming focus on the task at hand.  In many cases, the appearance of a device in a teen driver's hand has far more to do with changing the music track than it does checking their status or email.  In this age of nerd-chic, "smart=sexy", Mythbusters, and social awareness, and the targeted exposure on TV, radio, pre-movie PSAs, and reverse peer-pressure, teens SEEM to "get it."  

So, who's doing it?  Again, this is MY silly "research," but, each time I see someone actively moving forward in a vehicle while simultaneously staring into their lap, or, with their device-laden hand extended in front of them (as if super-positioning will give them some sort of advantage and prevent impairment), it is someone in their "parenting years", which I'll use for a blanket demographic of late-20's to early-50's.  Soccer-mom's and dad's, on the school run, with their kids in the back (probably with their faces buried in some device or another, too, if not glued to the in-car DVD player's monitor... you know the look:  that bolt upward, glazed over look of a generation doomed to never fully develop the use of their neck muscles.  Zombie apocalypse... will we be able to tell the difference between the truly undead and the just-plain lazy?  I digress....  the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do parenting style still reigns, and it's people that oughta know better who seem to stand out as the offenders.  It's THESE folks that need to be grown-ups about it, and realize how silly it is to facetweet and text while driving the kids to the mall.  It.  Can.  Wait.  Seriously.   

I know we'll get there.  Programs like this help raise awareness.  It's needed.  I remember a time where buckling a seat-belt was NOT automatic behavior.  Now, I feel somehow exposed and naked without a seatbelt on in a car, even in the driveway.  Why some people STILL don't do it, it's beyond my comprehension - and can only be explained with the notion that one can't cure "stupid."  But, we will get there.  Preventing forest fires, climbing utility poles, buckling up, friends not letting friends drive drunk, just saying "no"; advocacy and awareness does - eventually - help. 

For the cycling community, heck, the entire two-wheeled community (as if motorcyclists weren't up against enough already, texting and driving is certainly on their minds, too)... You don't need to "pledge", or sign anything... we all know the rhetoric by now.  Live by it.  Don't text and drive.  None of us are above it.  

Especially for the benefit of those NOT protected by a steel crumple-shell, please, spread the word.  

Thanks for reading . . . 

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