From the 90s to the Present Day
The early 90s saw the emergence of a new lousy driver’s favorite: the beige or “champagne gold” GM sedan.
Whether Chevy Lumina or Buick Century, this nondescript four-door would announce proudly to the motoring public: “I’m old, and I drive like crap!”.
This inheritor of the proud heritage of Plymouth Valiants, Ramblers and K-Cars continues to the present day, dependably taking up both lanes in a divided roadway; as well as making the occasional, vague unsignaled sudden turn, the hallmark of the stubborn aging driver unwilling to concede that he or she needs those new fangled glasses that let you see both close AND far away.
As long as you can fit those wraparound cataract sunglasses over them, no problem.
However, these predictable yet relatively benign hazards soon gave way to a more ominous, dangerous set of roadway dangers: SUVs and cell phones.
The mid-90s brought a new, more frightening phenomenon to the roads: the urban assault vehicle or, as it is commonly known, the SUV.
One of the most clever hoaxes ever to be perpetrated on the consuming public, the first SUVs were, in fact, crappy pick up trucks fitted with a slightly more plush interior as well as a permanent bed cap instead of the junky aftermarket one your plumber friend has on his. But gussied up a bit, their comfy insides combined with a much higher vantage point made the insecure female driver, formerly content to shield herself in the safe confines of the Volvo wagon, feel more confident in her ability to drive while drying nail polish or playing with the radio to find that station that plays Shania Twain or Faith Hill at least once per hour.
And so the American auto companies could dramatically increase profit margins on aging vehicle platforms without the need for actual product improvements. Meanwhile, the vastly increased number of these heavy, inefficient vehicles on the road contributed to a rise in serious accidents as well as fuel consumption nationwide.
Combining these larger, heavier vehicles with a new source of distraction in the form of the mobile phone has created a menace to the road-traveling public never before seen. Where an experienced person might encounter, on rare occasion, the intoxicated driver weaving across lanes or going inexplicably slowly, it is now rather common to see this kind of dangerous obliviousness on the roads. Almost without exception, the offender is driving while using a cell phone.
Today, with the ubiquitous presence of cell phones in cars, the dangerous driver has become universal; and so, the ability to identify poor driving by the type of car is becoming increasingly rare. Another remnant of my childhood, youth and early adulthood made increasingly obsolete by technology.
However as bad as cell phones while driving are, I propose in parting that a line in the sand be drawn in the case of texting while driving. As far as I am concerned, this is tantamount to a capital offense. Let me explain.
If you commit a crime with a firearm, you are committing a more egregious crime by definition than the same crime without the firearm. The reason for this is the threat posed by the presence of the firearm, i.e., the threat of lethal force. Texting while driving is exactly the same. If you are texting while driving a motor vehicle, that vehicle represents the threat of lethal force, and your texting dramatically increases the chances that the vehicle will, in fact, cause an accident which unleashes lethal force.
Therefore, despite my relatively conservative approach to personal freedom and responsibility, I would advocate a law equating texting while driving to committing an assault with a firearm. Even if no accident takes place, it represents an undesirable and unreasonable threat to your fellow man, which should be punished severely whenever witnessed. Stop this dangerous menace now before it becomes as ubiquitous as cell phone use.
Or reality television.