With apologies to Naughty by Nature” and their very catchy hit song, but I am down with OPD. So you don’t misinterpret the acronym, OPD stands for “Other Peoples’ Driving”. I have never been a big fan of others’ driving, in part because I had to be shlepped around by my distracted mom for many years. But her driving is Formula 1 calibre compared to what I experience in Miami. As if the subpar quality of the streets, traffic and complete lack of respect for the rules of the road weren’t bad enough, the incessant need to be on a cellphone while driving has made this glitzy metropolis a virtually lethal combination of automotive dysfunction.
I was not privy to the meeting of the minds when the cellphone was invented but I’m fairly confident one of their objectives was not to increase the fatality rate. Using a mobile phone for purposes of population control should be left in the hands of the CIA and James Bond, not soccer moms driving oversized cars or one of the hundreds of others I see on the roads abusing the purpose of a car and their many accessible technologies.
In truth, I am not sounding the alarms about “distracted driving” over any particular incident I’ve encountered, although the prototypical soccer mom driving a Range Rover talking on her cellphone as she blindly backs her yacht-sized vehicle out of a narrow parking spot definitely irks me. She’s just of dozens of drivers I see operating their cars with either their heads facing their laps is and/or not a whit of concentration on the primary task at hand. Thus the realist in me has begun to fear the worst every time I am driving in Miami-Dade County.
Operating a motor vehicle is a ,not a virtual reality where we should be testing the limits of our ability to multitask. Using the cellphone in any capacity while behind the wheel is not just a bad habit. It’s a national epidemic. Brain studies prove driving to be an activity which requires uninterrupted attention to the task at hand. Statistical studies have shown that distracted driving has a higher potential for disaster than DUI. And yet drivers of all ages and abilities seem to have no regard for these facts, and instead place the need for instant communication over the imperative of being safe.
The national discussion over the perils of distracted driving has increased. However, the urgency to pass legislation outlawing such behavior seems to remain in the slow lane. Ask any Miami Dade cop and he/she will tell you that they are responding to more cellphone-related accidents than ever before. The time has come to take drastic action, though I think it’s safe to say none of us wish to be another statistic to illustrate this point.
I am also writing this blog in the wake of yet another horrific accident involving former students. I do not know the cause of the accident other than they drove into a house, but my hunch tells me that whoever was driving had to be at least a little “distracted”. Just as the old adage of “parents should not outlive their children” goes so too a teacher should not outlive his/her former students. Yet I would venture to say at least a dozen of former La Salle and students I have tutored from other schools have been either killed or devastated by car accidents since I moved here in 2001. I definitely do not want to attend or hear of another student’s funeral.
I’d be lying if I said that I always practice what I preach. Who does? But I have learned that the best way to encourage better societal habits is to lead by example. So no more texting, operating a hand held phone or responding to silly emails while behind the wheel. I am proud to say that I have been relatively distracted-driving free for several months now. I really like just being able to concentrate on my driving, not to mention having more time to deal with the epidemic of OPD.
In the meantime, I think I’ll go listen to Naughty by Nature. Just not in my car.