Have you seen the commercials on television that have this slogan? StopTextsStopWrecks.
They are pretty graphic. One tells the story of a young woman who is in what we, the viewers, know is the Land of the Dead. She, of course, has no idea where she is or what she is doing there. She explains that she was just driving along when a concrete barrier or an 18-wheeler or something jumped out at her. She had just found out that some girl had gone out with David, that cute boy on the basketball team – or some such person – and she wasn’t supposed to be jealous, but she was, really, and it was really, like, such an important text. So she looked down for, like what? five seconds, and then she wakes up here with red stuff all over her face!? How did that happen?
Max and I tried to take a vacation last week. I say we tried because we planned to go to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, but Hurricane Matthew got there first, so we got as far as Knoxville, and turned around and came home. Knoxville is a pretty cool college town, but I was really looking forward to the beach and the ocean.
In the event that you have never driven across the Great State of Tennessee, I suggest you do so at your own peril. The first time Max and I traversed Tennessee, we discovered that college football starts early in the week and is serious business. On a Thursday afternoon one fall, the trip from Nashville to Knoxville was a lesson in how to keep up with traffic without being stopped for driving under 80. Max says he was driving 80, and we were passed as if we were sitting still as soon as we left the Nashville city limits. And every passing car was headed to the Vols game on Saturday and had one of those orange “T” flags that attaches to the side windows.
We gazed with awe as car after car passed us, doing obviously more than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit of 75, orange flags flapping furiously in the wind. We decided that driving in Tennessee was not for sissies.
And yet, here we were again. We left St. Louis on a Saturday morning, heading east for what we thought would be a few relaxing days in the sun. We knew that Hurricane Matthew was swirling toward our eventual destination, but hope dies hard, and we thought that if enough time passed, so would the hurricane.
In the words of one presidential candidate, “Wrong.”
We got to Knoxville, holding out hope that the hurricane would die out or lessen, or, at the very least, not flood our beachfront resort. The nice people at the Courtyard Marriott told us that we would not go any farther. It took us about 10.5 hours to go back to Highway 65 and turn south for home.
What we saw during our abbreviated travels, about 22 hours of driving, other than beautiful countryside, made my blood boil. A car would drift toward the center line as we passed on the left. As soon as I could see the driver, I could see that he or she was either texting or looking at something on the phone.
A car would slow down and speed up, slow down and speed up. Sure enough, as we got around that car, we would see the driver’s eyes looking at a phone instead of at the road.
As we drove at least 80 miles per hour on the interstate highway, people passed us, looking at their phones or texting on them. I was flabbergasted.
A car going 80 miles per hour on a highway is a deadly weapon. One mistake could cost one or more lives. I find it incredible that drivers could be so cavalier as to take their attention away from driving to catch up on the latest gossip.
Remember the girl from the Land of the Dead. Quit texting and driving. StopTextsStopWrecks. Like, really.
Deborah Mitchell is a a local attorney and a Municipal Court Judge.