2017-02-17 / Columns

LEDGER COLUMNIST

A sad but true trend
TIM GULLA
LEDGER STAFF

Driving from Charlotte to Gaffney last week, I quickly noticed an issue in the passing lane of Interstate 85.

There was a silver-colored Honda going so slow that everyone, even loaded down truckers, were having to pass this interstate sluggard on the right.

I had been content in the right lane as I’m wont to do, but even at my tepid pace I found myself quickly advancing on this lolly-gagging vehicle as well. The driver wasn’t just driving slowly, I noticed, he or she was having trouble maintaining speed and a straight line. The Honda was going from one side of the lane to the other, but not quite crossing any of the lines completely.

At least that was the case until it was my turn to pass the car off on the right side. Just as I was about to pass, this car veered over into my lane, forcing me to apply my brakes, horn and possibly a hand gesture with some, shall we say, vim.

The driver of the silver-colored Honda snapped back to the left and took off. Sadly, she didn’t take off for good. My near-miss occurred near the 5 Mile Marker of Interstate 85 South in North Carolina. She stayed in the left lane, bottlenecking traffic, swerving in her lane, being passed off on the right, until we parted company when I got off Exit 92 in Gaffney.

When I finally got alongside her as I headed toward the exit ramp, I noticed what she was doing. She was merrily texting away on her cell phone — so much so that another vigorous application of my horn didn’t even make her look up.

I’m ashamed to say I didn’t call the cops to at least have this woman checked out. I followed her for 20 miles in two states and had ample opportunity to dial *HP.

So, too, did many others, and I’m guessing no one did.

It’s likely this driver continued driving aimlessly and carelessly through Spartanburg and Greenville counties as well. She had a Georgia license plate, plenty of Upstate counties to traverse and no doubt plenty of Upstate drivers to annoy and endanger.

A recent Car and Driver magazine column by Ezra Dyer hit the nail on the head in many regards. Dyer — always a great read — noted how many more wrecks he’s been seeing, if only anecdotally, in this day and age of increasingly safe cars and came to the inescapable conclusion that cell phones are to blame.

“I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen the car ahead of me lazily drift onto the shoulder only to veer back onto the pavement and then, 30 seconds later, fade left across the centerline,” Dyer wrote. “Ten years ago, you’d think ‘drunk’ and maybe call the cops. Now we just shrug it off because dangerously sloppy driving is so completely commonplace.”

It’s sad, when you think about it, but true.

According to some recent year-end statistics, there were 975 traffic deaths in South Carolina in 2016, just a few tragedies shy of the horrible pace set in 2015. Compare that to 823 deaths in 2014 and 767 in 2013. Roadway deaths have been trending up in South Carolina.

Statisticians might say deaths are only up because there are more cars on the road, or we’re driving more miles. Doesn’t seem right, though, does it.

I’d like to think that all the effort police and society in general have put into educating folks about the dangers of drinking and driving has had an impact. Anecdotally, at least, I haven’t been seeing as many drunk driving crashes as I did years ago.

So what’s to blame for all these crashes?

“Well, it’s phones,” Ezra Dyer wrote. “Duh.”

Amen my brother. Amen.

On a related note, the RogerEbert.com movie review website gavethenewmovieJohnWick:Chapter2agreatreviewand3.5 stars out of a possible 4-star rating, while the Rotten Tomatoes film review aggregator currently gives the movie a 90 percent fresh rating — high praise for a movie indeed. If the reviews hold up with time, John Wick: Chapter 2 would have ratings on par with some of the all-time greats of cinema. Fancy that!

I’m guessing these reviews were spot on, but I’m not really sure. I went to see the movie the other day but was distracted by the middle-aged woman sitting two rows in front of me who spent the entire, and I mean entire, length of the movie sending texts, scrolling through her Facebook feed and watching videos. She didn’t even bother to turn down the screen brightness a notch or two and her texts weren’t all that interesting, to be honest.

I could ask what this world is coming to, but Dyer already gave me the answer.

“Well, it’s phones. Duh.”

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