Keep your eyes on the road

The Doors, Roadhouse Blues, lyrics read: “Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel.” Who knew that Jim Morrison would be helping us to save $490?

Considering the way the song lyrics devolve from there, Morrison wouldn’t be the best spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation (even if he were alive), but regardless, even if you aren’t going to the roadhouse, follow his lyrics and you’re “Gonna have a real good-time.” Or at least you won’t have a bad time getting pulled over for distracted driving, or get into an accident, or worse.

It seems so intuitive and easy. Don’t text, or hold your phone to your ear, or do an Internet search, or reprogram your GPS while driving, and yet I’m still seeing it everywhere.

The message just didn’t seem to get across when fines were in the $100 range, nor the $200 range, so as of September 1, penalties for distracted driving rose to $490 and three demerit points. Now, I said Jim Morrison might save you $490, but he’d actually be saving you a lot more, as your insurance rates would likely jump as well with a conviction. (Not to mention that if you’re a novice driver, you’ll also face a 30-day suspension for a first conviction).

The $490 was high enough for me to ask more questions about the rules. I spoke with the duty officer at the police station and was referred to the MTO website for distracted driving, but most importantly, I learned that checking your telephone when you’re stopped at a traffic light is illegal. You have to be out of traffic (pulled over and stopped) to use your phone unless it is hands-free. You also can’t program your GPS while driving.

It begs the question, why is talking or texting so important?

We can blame some of this on society, but the rest we have to own ourselves, and either way, we need safer habits while driving.

Perhaps we are victims of a time shrunk world, where multi-tasking is a survival tactic? We were trained at work to carry our cellphones everywhere in case the boss needed to get a hold of us. Not to mention the colleagues who sends three follow up emails if we don’t reply to the first one fast enough. If people are still talking or texting while driving for work reasons, I wonder if their company will pay their fine and increased insurance rates? I doubt it!

Perhaps we bought into Get Smart’s: “This message will self-destruct in 10 seconds”? When’s the last time you got a text that was so time sensitive, that you wouldn’t have the time to pull over to get out of traffic, stop the vehicle, and then check it? Is your name James Bond or Jason Bourne?

Instant gratification and the neediness that goes along with it may play a part in this culturally as well. We like to know that people are thinking of us, and that ringtone, chime, or notification sound makes us feel loved. We’ve been trained to answer instantly to not have people think we don’t care about them. Perhaps we are so self-absorbed that we think that our next text, our next telephone call and the instant gratification it brings is more important than the safety of everyone around us?

Would you want to crash your car over a bad-hair-day selfie that a friend texts you? Would you want to get your driver’s licence suspended for 30 days just to get a link to a cute cat video compilation on youtube? Maybe I’m not as important as you are, but I know that no text or telephone call is coming my way that is worth risking my life or someone else’s.

We have to change our habits. As a start, we can turn off the phone or put it on mute to avoid temptation. We can put the phone in the glove box, out of sight and out of reach while driving. Or, maybe Morrison is the key here and we can change our ringtone to Roadhouse Blues as a reminder to focus only the task at hand: driving.

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