They call it “distracted driving.” What is worse than a teenage driver, texting and on the phone while driving? I think I know.
A few weeks ago I was assisting my nephew, while he was doing a plumbing repair at my mother in law’s home. Well, I wasn’t really assisting, mainly just watching. He needed a part to finish the job that they didn’t have around here. He would keep on working at the job, and I would drive up to Spivey’s Corner and get the part from the supplier, who was driving down from Dunn. I could do that. While never much of a handyman, I’ve always been a good gopher. You know, “Go for this,” or “Go for that.”
So I headed out of Clinton on Hwy 421 to get the part. Less than a mile out of town, I came up behind a slow moving truck, probably going around 40 miles an hour. The truck was weaving from one side to the other, occasionally going across the yellow line, and then almost running off the road.
The truck was a white Chevrolet pickup, one of your typical farm or work trucks you see on the roads here in Sampson County every day. As I drove up close behind the weaving truck, it then sped up to regular highway speed. But I could tell the driver didn’t look like a young man, just your average middle age man driving a white Chevrolet pickup.
A little further down the road the truck started slowing down again, weaving side to side, once again crossing the yellow middle line into the opposite lane. He jerked the truck back into his lane, as there was a vehicle coming toward us. I noticed the driver was constantly moving his head up and down.
I didn’t know if the driver of the pickup truck was drunk, having some sort of spell, or what. I surely wasn’t going to try to pass him. But he didn’t need to be on the road. So I phoned 911, and they connected me to the Highway Patrol. I pulled up close behind the truck, gave them the license plate number and information.
The truck then sped up again to the speed limit. But soon it started weaving back and forth and slowing down. As I pulled up closer behind him, I saw the problem. He was once again bobbing his head up and down. It was his phone. I saw him raise the phone in his right hand and lift it and stretch it away so he could see it better. (Yep, he must had been at least middle aged.)
So the middle aged man in the white Chevrolet pickup was apparently not drunk or having a spell. He had been on the phone, talking and texting. Maybe he was using the GPS on his phone trying to find some place. What he wasn’t doing was paying attention to the road. We finally made it to Spivey’s Corner, where I turned in to the convenience store to pick up the part and hurry back to Clinton. The pickup driver continued on his way toward Dunn. Maybe a Highway Patrolman met him before he got there.
On December 3, 1992, Neil Papworth sent the world’s first text message. It was a very bad day for the English language, for proper spelling and for verbal communication. And it was a very bad day for those of us on American highways. Distracted driving has now surpassed drinking as the most lethal activity on the road.
This is the tenth anniversary of the smart phone. But is seems that many that use them are not that smart. So, what is worse than a teenage driver, texting and driving while on the phone? It’s a middle aged driver, texting and driving, while on the phone. I suppose those teen drivers can be just as bad. But they are better at handling all those devices, and at least they can see them.
Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org