Texting and driving kills, and that’s no bull

Thursday, August 9, 2018
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Guest Column

During the long, desolate drive from Baker to Glendive on State Highway 7, it’s easy to get bored.

If you’ve seen it once, you’ve seen it, and you don’t feel like you have to keep your eyes peeled.

At least that was how I felt in the summer of 2011, when I was driving home to Glendive after a rehearsal for a show at Heiser’s Bar and Casino.

There were no other cars on the road. I was cruising along, listening to Chris Whitley’s “Big Sky Country,” but I wasn’t admiring the terrain like Whitley. I wasn’t showing my appreciation for the great wide open.

I was too busy texting.

Considering it’s been seven years, I can’t recall what I was texting about, but it wasn’t important in the grand scheme of things. One of my friends had some drama. They wanted to vent to somebody, and I made myself available.

Instead of looking at the road, I put my attention on the screen, looking away from the windshield for undetermined amounts of time.

According to www.icebike.org, reading a text message while driving “successfully distracts a driver for a minimum of five seconds each time.” Considering the speed limit on Highway 7 is 70 miles per hour, I’d looked away long enough to drive almost the length of two football fields.

This didn’t matter to me. No one was coming. There was nothing to worry about.

On Highway 7, you might not have to worry about other cars, but that doesn’t mean the roads are empty. In Eastern Montana, you never know what could come your way.

When I finally did look up, I saw a bull about 50 yards away, making its way toward the line of fire.

This wasn’t the first time I’d seen a bull in the middle of the road around these parts, but it was the first time I almost hit one.

I spotted the big black behemoth out the corner of my eye, just in time to slam on the breaks and stop.

The bull stood still. Unafraid. Impenetrable. As I came to a complete stop, he stared into my soul, then looked around and made his way back off the road, roaming the prairie, perhaps headed back home.

I chucked my phone onto the passenger seat and stared straight ahead, still in disbelief.

“That would’ve killed me,” I said to myself.

And what if it had? What an embarrassing, tremendously avoidable way to go. How humiliating, foolish and heartbreaking to crash into a bull because I was too careless to look ahead.

Excessive cell phone usage can become an addiction. Suddenly we feel like we’re at everyone’s beckand-call. We don’t turn off our phones and we don’t turn off our desire to respond.

Sadly, texting and driving is a serious concern. According to www.teensafe.com, there are 3,287 deaths each day due to fatal car crashes. On average, nine of these daily fatalities are due to distracted driving.

Drivers are getting too comfortable driving with their phones handy. A recent article in the “Chicago Tribune” writes, “one in four drivers admit to using a cell phone right before a crash.”

This shouldn’t be a surprise, as teensafe.com states drivers are “23 times more likely to get in a crash if they are texting and driving.”

Why make yourself more susceptible to injury or death? Why endanger someone else?

If I get a text while I am driving, I think of that bull on Highway 7, and I think, “That conversation wasn’t worth risking my life. No conversation is worth that kind of jeopardy. Arrive at your destination and make a phone call or text when it’s convenient.”

I encourage you, fellow driver, to find your bull. Understand the consequences of your action. Drive smart. Drive careful.

It’s never worth it. Don’t text and drive.

Charlie Denison is a reporter with the Lewistown News Argus. He can be reached at reporter@lewistownnews.com