As I’ve mentioned before, the bureaucratic safety net that underlies the automotive industry is, for all intents and purposes, very effective. However, when the laws change or a new law is created it’s a big challenge for the government to communicate it to every single driver out there. It’s up to us to keep ourselves abreast of this information and although we can get it from the normal sources – friends, TV, newspapers, the radio, etc. – sometimes drivers slip through the cracks.
Dad had become comfortable with the way I drove his car. Of course, with only my learner’s permit I still had to have him, or another experienced driver, in the car with me at all times. It was a good sign when he stopped correcting every second move I made. I was finally able to enjoy the simple act of driving. Don’t get me wrong – I loved having Dad there. He’s a very knowledgeable guy, at least when it comes to road traffic safety, but as I found out one day, he doesn’t know everything.
We had been driving along when Mom called my cell. I turned down the radio and picked up the phone. She wanted us to pick something up on the way home, but before she could tell me what it was I saw flashing blue and red lights in the rear-view mirror.
My heart immediately leapt out of my chest. I turned to Dad who looked confused and stunned at the same time, his eyes wide, staring into the side view mirror of the car.
“Pull over. Now,” he said.
I hung up on Mom, in the middle of a sentence, and slowly pulled the car onto the shoulder of the road. I was nervous as the cop approached.
“Just let me do the talking,” Dad said.
A few minutes into the conversation with the police officer I had learned the following things:
- I had not been speeding
- I had not been driving recklessly
- Using a cell phone while driving is illegal in some states – if you’re under 18.
- Dad does not know everything.
As it turns out, driving while using a cell phone can be as unsafe as driving while impaired. There have been several studies done, in several countries, that illustrate the delayed reaction time people exhibit while texting, or talking, and driving at the same time. The general conclusion seems to be that it is dangerous to use a hand-held device while driving. Therefore, many regions have enacted laws that limit the use of these devices while a person is behind the wheel.
I avoided getting a ticket, because it was obvious that I was still learning. Dad also managed to argue that he didn’t know about the law and therefore couldn’t be held responsible for making sure that I knew about it. The police officer was very cordial and let us off with just a friendly warning, but mentioned that the penalty – if I were to be caught again – would be much more severe.
For up to date information on the latest safety regulations and laws you can sign up for email and text alerts from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – click here (http://www.nhtsa.gov/) for more information.