Tuesday, May 05, 2009


Read an article today about a woman who was polishing her nails while driving, and ran into and killed another woman.

Just like that.

She was initially charged with only a moving violation ("failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident" -- I should say so), but as the investigation continues, she's likely to be charged with something far more serious and completely life-altering (as if the guilt of killing someone wasn't), like involuntary manslaughter or reckless endangerment or negligent vehicular homicide.  And the potential for incarceration appears to rise as the moments pass.

At least, one would think so.

And I don't know how she couldn't be.  It wasn't just by random happenstance.  Her tire didn't blow out.  No one swerved into her lane.  She didn't hit a puddle or a pothole or catch the sun in her eyes.  THIS. WAS. NO. ACCIDENT.

It was a senseless loss.  

What must have been going through her head as she did this?  Surely, she'd thought it through.  She picked it up as she was heading out the door.  No time to polish and dry and still make it to the event on time.  I'll just do it on the way, she thinks, and throws it in her purse.  She sees the intersection, must see the yellow light because she doesn't slow down, and just continues to plow through it, sending the motorcycle at the light with the 56-year-old woman parked directly in front of her reeling for several hundred feet.  

Several. Hundred. Feet.

But fuck, what if she'd planned on doing her toes, too?

And I'm trying not to be judgmental here.  I am.  Because the long list of things I have done behind the wheel is not pretty.  And to think even for a minute about the damage I could have done to myself, my family, complete strangers, their families just because of my selfish, thoughtless, and sometimes just careless acts, it just makes me want to puke.

Because I, too, have texted while driving.  I have applied makeup while driving.  I have reached behind the passenger seat to retrieve the all-important-sure-to-stop-the-incessant-screaming-child's toy while driving.  I have had more than my fair share of drinks and then driven.  I have made and received phone calls while driving.  I have Tweeted while driving.  I have updated my FB status while driving.  I have stopped bloody brawls between my children with my purse and a water bottle while driving.  I have changed shoes while driving.  I have fixed my hair -- with both hands -- while driving.  I have changed shirts while driving.  I have checked into a flight while driving.  I have checked and responded to email while driving.  I have had sex while driving.  I have spilled hot drinks, cold drinks, and breastmilk all over myself while driving.  I have eaten many many many meals while driving.  I have become so involved in a conference call that I missed by exit by three exits.  I have changed CDs -- from the 6-CD-changer -- from underneath the passenger seat -- while driving.  I have driven with no license, with no insurance, with a suspended license, and without my required glasses.  I have written checks while driving.  I -- almost every single day -- make to-do lists while driving.  And the list goes on and on and on.

[And I'm already getting irritated at the thought of the inevitable development of a Facebook Top 25 Things You Do While Driving But Probably Shouldn't thingamajig.]

But I truly don't mean to make light of the situation.  I don't.  Because there's nothing light about it.  A woman died.  Completely unnecessarily.  There was no earthquake or hurricane or car bombs for her to try to evade and survive.  It was just a random day.  And just a random Chevrolet Impala.  Driven by some random woman who believed, like many of us do, that she was in a plastic bubble on autopilot as she updated her mani, making herself ignorantly oblivious to the fact that she was behind the wheel of an armed and dangerous weapon.  

Completely senseless.

In Illinois, there's a Distracted Drivers Taskforce that was created in 2007, which I think is a step in the right direction, but like most great ideas, will likely be more talk than action.  I mean, who do you know that's even received a citation for texting while driving?  But why accidents crashes that occur due to drivers' inattentiveness aren't treated the same as they would be if that driver tests .08 or above on a breathalyzer, is beyond me.

It's the same thing, as far as I'm concerned.  And yes, we're all distracted from time to time by something as seemingly benign as changing the radio station to something completely out of our control (like projectile vomiting sliding down the back of your neck suddenly as your cruising down the 880).  And yes, sometimes accidents do just happen.  But what about when those moments of inattention become life-endangering distractions?  And who can really draw that line?  Who's going to monitor every single second of everything we do from the moment we step into and turn on a vehicle?  And would we want them to?

I know that I certainly don't want any more big brother than necessary, but I for one am also grateful for the no texting law we have here in California.  Because if we do that, if we chose to invite into our illusively protected environment those types of distractions that have been deemed unsafe for all -- those types of distractions that we simply must do right then and there, that simply can't wait the 15 minutes it takes to get wherever we're going despite evidence of their use resulting in horrible tragedies -- those types of distractions that really won't matter in the least once you plow into someone and kill them because of it, ending not only their life, but the lives of their loved ones, your own, and your loved ones in the process.  

If we do that, then we have to own up to the consequences, you know?  Even if those consequences are just as harsh as if we had been chugging a 1/5 of vodka and driving 100 miles an hour through a school zone.

Yes, I really do think so.

So, I guess one of the big questions that always comes out of these kinds of postings for me is do we even have the right to judge someone like Ms. Manicured Impala? Didn't she just make a mistake?  A series of bad judgments?  A momentary lapse of logic?  And during the peak of the chaos that has been Nadya Suleman, should we have been judging her as harshly as we did?

And I guess today I'm thinking hell yeah we fucking should.  

Because that's how we come to learn life lessons.  Very often they're at our own expense, sure, but if we're lucky, they're at someone else's.  And yes, that sounds harsh, but to not look at these experiences and take away learnings, to heed their inherent warnings, to grow from their mistakes as if they were our own would just be stupid.  And a waste of the example they've set.  And a bigger tragedy than even the motorcyclist's death.  Because who are we if we're not evolving?  If we're not constantly figuring out how to navigate life, how to survive, and how to thrive?  

And for me, this one seems pretty clear.  

1 comment:

nuckingfutsmama said...

Wow! I am right there with you on all the insanely dangerous things I've done while driving -- in fact, I, like you, wrote a blog about it too. Unfortunately, I think it kinda goes with the territory of being a mom. That's not to say that it's excusable -- especially after hearing the manicure lady's story. After seeing the Today show excerpt on texting while driving & now reading this woman's ordeal, it really does make me think twice about what's going on in the car when I'm behind the wheel. Scary stuff.