Grasshopper Soup: no case for cell phone use | SierraSun.com

Grasshopper Soup: no case for cell phone use

Bob Sweigert
Special to the Sun

Would you stare out the window day dreaming while chopping vegetables? Accidents can happen even when everyone is paying attention. Why compound the risk?

Operating a motor vehicle is a serious responsibility. In fact, the word serious doesnand#8217;t come close to describing it. Grave is more to the point.

As a professional driver with nearly 40 years of experience, including training drivers and scoring 100 percent on bus driving tests from a DMV examiner who said she never gives anyone 100 percent, I would like to share my perspective on cell phone use and texting while driving.

Professional drivers are trained in the safe and proper use of radios. The first, and most important safety rule they learn about using a radio while driving is and#8212; donand#8217;t! If it is required, and related to the job of driving, the second rule is to get on and off that radio as quickly as possible, with as little talk as possible, and never take your eyes off the road. Even necessary radio use is a distraction from your primary job of driving.

The most common sense priority for anyone behind the wheel of a motor vehicle is the physical well being of themselves and the other people on the road.

Amazingly enough, some people still insist on promoting cell phone use and texting while driving. This is completely irresponsible. The issue is not open for debate. Texting and talking on the phone while driving is not only unlawful, it is negligent, naïve and reckless.

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Professional driving is more about how you use your mind than it is about how you use the gas pedal, the brakes and the steering wheel. Our mind tells us we should be free to do whatever we want, and that is the problem. Everybody wants to add more and more rights and privileges to their constitutional right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. All the more reason to ban texting and the use of hand held phones while driving. Itand#8217;s kind of hard to exercise your right to life when you are dead, and there have already been too many preventable deaths across this country caused by texting or talking on the cell phone while driving. Even the use of hand free devices is a dangerous distraction.

If you believe it is your constitutional right to socialize and catch up with your friends, or to text, or talk on the phone while driving, you are gravely mistaken. Driving should be given 100 percent of your focus and concentration. If you value life and freedom, you will pull over and stop before diverting your attention to your phone.

Perhaps it is time to require all drivers to take the same difficult DMV test that Class B commercial drivers take, including a separate test for a passenger endorsement, without which you are not allowed to carry passengers. Our own children are no less valuable as passengers than the paying customers of a bus or taxi.

In the last several years I have had too many close calls because of people driving and talking on their cell phone. One guy drove right through a red light after mine turned green. The only thing that prevented my death that day was the fact that my training and experience taught me to watch for, and expect, such gross negligence.

Recently I watched a woman speed through a yield sign as I was attempting to cross the road. It was clear that she was completely oblivious to everything but her cell phone conversation. A CHP officer saw her fail to yield to me (I had the right of way) and other traffic, and saw the phone to her ear and pulled her over. She deserved to get the maximum fine.

Multi-tasking while driving is foolish. Make your car a no-cell-phone zone. It could save your life or at least spare you a vehicular manslaughter conviction.

Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, ski instructor and commercial driver. He’s lived at Lake Tahoe for 27 years.