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Wait, to avoid close calls

June 17, 2009
It happened suddenly, in just a flash. I was headed home from work on a recent Friday, driving along Corydon-New Middletown Road, when all of a sudden, I was looking death right in the eye.

Like many people, I consider myself to be a safe and courteous driver. I've never had a speeding ticket in my life (although, I'm sure I deserved a couple), and I've never been involved in an accident that was my fault. I was struck in the rear once, but it was due to a fellow searching through his glove box and forgetting that there was traffic in front of him.

But on this particular Friday, I was approaching a small hill and a large SUV — I think it was a silver Ford Excursion — came over the hill in the middle of the highway and was coming right at me. I swerved to the right and the vehicle missed me by not more than a couple of inches. I thought I was a goner. A Ford Excursion versus a Honda Civic, no contest.

I pulled over and stopped. My heart was beating fast, and it took a while for me to stop shaking. I knew I was within inches of being killed or at least seriously injured.

As I sat there, I relived the incident in my mind, and the shock turned to anger. The woman who was driving the SUV had both hands on the wheel, but she was also balancing a cell phone there and it looked like she was using her thumbs to text message as she drove. She never looked up when she flew past me. I don't think she even knew — or cared — I was there, sharing the road with her.

How can people be so stupid? Surely, the woman knows how dangerous that is — to take your eyes off the road — even for a second. Does she just not care or value the life of others? How could she ever justify her actions if she had run me over? I wonder what she would say to my family had I been maimed or killed — all due to a text message that she couldn't live without or take time to pull over and do safely — without endangering innocent people.

I still was quite shaken when I pulled into my driveway, thankful to be home. I was hoping I wouldn't have to get back in a car all weekend. I couldn't think of a more absurd way to die than in some senseless automobile wreck.

But by Monday morning, I had, for the most part, forgotten about the incident, that is, until I got about halfway to work. I was driving along, thinking about the day ahead when all of a sudden I saw a white SUV pulling out of a driveway. The woman was talking on a cell phone, glanced my way, but just kept going and pulled out in front of me. Had I not been watching closely and slammed on my brakes, I never would have stopped in time to avoid hitting her vehicle broadside. All due to a cell phone. Now, here was a woman, just leaving her house, and she couldn't wait to make a cell phone call.

Are any of us that important? Do we all need to be in constant contact with someone, even if it means putting others at risk? Does someone hurtling down the road in a ton and a half of steel have an obligation to do it in a safe way?

On the river, where I used to work, there's an old saying that "rules take the place of brains — and if you don't want rules, don't create a need for them." Maybe it's time for rules about driving and using cell phones. Evidently, they are needed as more and more people refuse to use common sense, and more and more innocent people pay the price for someone else's stupidity and carelessness.

But I'm afraid there will be countless victims of this modern, and, yes, convenient, technology before any action is taken to keep our public highways safe from those who, evidently, couldn't care less.

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Barbara Shaw
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