That’s a deadly weapon you’ve got there

Continuing on North Shore news, Lisa Black wrote in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune on a proposed “distracted driving” ban in Winnetka — one that would go further than the woefully limited, completely unenforced mobile-phone ban passed by Chicago last year. Yet unlike countless articles about driving-while-talking, which somehow strikes some as UnFreedom-istic, this one hints at the bigger problems: an epidemic of selfishness and willfull denial that cars are deadly weapons.

Irwin Askow, 90, who was a village board president in the 1970s, pushed for a law barring drivers from using cell phones around 2000, when he was almost struck by a car.

“I was crossing the street in Winnetka and was almost run over — missed me by 2 inches — a lady driving an SUV and talking on the cell phone,” said Askow, who still supports the law, though he now lives in Evanston. “She didn’t even see me. She didn’t stop at all.”

[Resident Bernadette] Wolff said she believes distracted driving is a symptom of a broader societal problem.

“I think we have all become very self-absorbed and self-important,” Wolff said.

Perhaps everyone needs a reminder, she said: “This is a big vehicle. Pay attention.”

Still not pointed out: a driver conversing with a passenger will probably get positive feedback about watching the road (like, “hey, watch out for that tree!”), quite unlike one talking into a tiny plastic box.

In any case, drivers should expect to lose their “rights” when exercising the privilege of waving around a deadly weapon in the public way. I’d even favor streetcorner cameras to catch those who blatantly violate the hundreds of laws that supposedly protect us against deadly or selfish driving: speeding, refusing to stop or yield for pedestrians, loud engines, and hit-and-run crashes, for instance.

One thought on “That’s a deadly weapon you’ve got there

  1. something I posted to Gaper’s Block during a talkback about the Chicago ban a while back:
    even if the law isn’t enforced, it gives me the moral upper hand. whenever I get within inches of being bloodied, mauled, assaulted (etc.)* by a phone-wielding driver, they don’t just not care–they act as if they just can’t be bothered with something as trivial and stupid as my life. after all, they’re on an important call! but now, I can pull out my own phone and call the cops on their asses. and they just might start to care.
    and yes, government can legislate safety. the goal is NOT to protect bad drivers from themselves: it’s to protect the public (which OWNS the roads) from bad drivers. and I don’t care if “you’re good at driving and talking.” all it takes is one slip, one moment when something crosses your blind spot–and suddenly someone, someone with hopes and fears and family and friends, is dead. maybe even you.
    if you absolutely HAVE to talk while traveling, why can’t you travel via a mode that doesn’t involve you wielding a deadly weapon in a crowd?* like, oh, take the bus. or walk.
    as Umberto Eco once pointed out, truly important people don’t use mobile phones; they have personal assistants, silly. the true mark of being important is not to be able to be reached anytime, it’s being able to be out of reach whenever you like.
    * yes, graphic language. but our society has a way of trivializing violence, as long as it’s perpetuated by cars. I’ve known and loved enough people who’ve died (screaming with pain) under car wheels to understand, and I hope that the heavens have the mercy to spare you “good drivers” that same pain.

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