A Doug's Life: It's Time to Get Our Eyes Back on the Road

The memories are fresh and the reminders are there -- all too painfully there.

It's been less than a week since Menifee resident Emily Blake was killed in an auto accident on Antelope Road. According to police, Blake's vehicle was struck head-on by a car that had crossed over the center line.

It's been less than a year since Donovan Adams, a recent graduate of Heritage High School, died in an auto accident on McCall Blvd. According to police, a car in which Adams was a passenger lost control and crashed into a light pole on a downhill stretch of pavement at Junipero Road. A memorial cross and flowers remain at the site of the accident.

And two crosses still stand at the side of Lindenberger Road, where Christopher Bishop and Tabitha Kirby died late one night in 2008 when their car flipped over at a curve in the road and struck a large boulder.

These are just a few of the local fatalities involving motor vehicles. It's a sad fact of life, and sad that often our first reaction is to speculate about driver error. Unfortunately, because of our own weaknesses and temptations while behind the wheel of a car, we know all too well what might have caused accidents such as these.

There is no intention to point fingers here. We don't know exactly what caused these accidents; we may never know. But whenever accidents like this are reported, it causes us to wonder. Was alcohol involved? Excessive speed? Was the driver texting or otherwise distracted?

Technology and our own behavior patterns have become so complex these days, there are way too many ways for us to lose focus when driving. Hopefully, most of us have enough sense not to get behind the wheel after we've been drinking, or to drive at dangerously high speeds. But what about the simple act of picking up our cell phone when it rings?

Granted, I'm as tempted as the next guy. I get calls from business contacts all day long. I have three different email accounts linked to my cell phone. Every time my favorite sports teams' game starts or ends, my phone dings. I'm as connected as I allow myself to be.

It's time to change our habits, folks.

In case you didn't know, April has been designated as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Law enforcement officials are increasing patrols and checkpoints to look for drivers using a cell phone behind the wheel or otherwise distracted. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, at any given daylight moment in the U.S., about 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices behind the wheel. According to the NHTSA, 3,300 people were killed in distraction-related crashes in 2011 and another 387,000 were injured.

About a month ago, one of my students at Cal Poly Pomona was killed when he was struck by a car while riding his bike alongside a street on campus. Details of the investigation have not been released, but anyone who has driven that road knows that the site of the accident is a sharp curve on a busy street, requiring maximum attention.

I don't know if texting or other driver distractions were at fault in that accident -- no more than I know what caused any of the tragic accidents described above. But I do know we can reduce the chance of traffic accidents if we put away our cell phones and keep our eyes on the road.

Those of you old enough to remember an age before cell phones should know that we got along fine traveling from point A to point B without being reachable by phone. You'll survive the wait to find out who just texted you or left a voice mail. You can resist the temptation to take a photo on your phone of the goofy guy in the lane next to you.

Join me in pledging to put your cell phone on silent and leaving it someplace where you can't see the screen while driving. If you call, text or email me and don't get an immediate response, assume I'm driving. It's nothing personal.

But it could be a matter of life or death.


  1. Thank you for bringing attention to this growing problem that’s affecting us right here in Menifee. Sadly, I have a folder of articles concerning several such accidents involving local teens, and I often review them with my kids. My 16- and 18-year-old boys both got their driving permits this week and I am terrified. For short trips within the city, I’m actually thinking of forcing them to leave their phones at home until they get used to driving without even the threat of its distraction…

  2. For once I agree with your column, I drive professionally and see people all the time talking/texting, including cops, who are legal to do it which should be changed as well. Not to mention people who are watching DVDs on their fancy stereos, or DVD players or laptops while driving. I seen one guy using his laptop which was sitting on his steering wheel on some sort of 'table' attached to the steering wheel, holding a cup of coffee in one hand and holding his phone to his ear with the other, you have to ask is his life really that worthless? Is yours? Are your kid's/family member's lives that worthless to him and others like him?