I love smartphones.
I feel they are one of mankind’s most useful inventions.
They are a communication device par excellence – provided you’re with Telstra, not in a lift, and you remember to charge it.
But they are far more than just a means of communication.
When you hold a smartphone in your hand, you are holding the sum-total of human knowledge (AKA social media), which, via the internet, is yours to access.
Unfortunately, as far as motorcyclists are concerned, accessing social media while you’re driving your car is a problem, with life-changing implications for us – and for you.
Unlike the police, I do not have a problem if someone has a phone jammed up against their ear and is talking as they drive one-handed. We humans are clever monkeys, and we can normally multi-task with ease. It is certainly not very hard to talk and drive – even one-handed.
But what humans cannot do, primarily because we do not have a second set of eyes on the top of our heads, is to type text messages and drive.
Yet this is exactly what we continue to do.
I see it every day as I commute to work.
From my vantage point on a bike I can peer into people’s cars – and normally do – and I see all sorts of things, many of which have nothing to do with actual driving; i.e. make-up application, handbag/wallet-rummaging, child-disciplining, and pet-comforting. But what I see the most of is texting.
Maybe four cars in every ten has this going on. And that’s a lot.
Many do it surreptitiously; the smartphone on their lap, their eyes darting from it to the road ahead with guilty nervousness.
But some do it openly and blithely because they just don’t care.
It’s like some kind of collective lunacy.
Sure, the texters all know it’s illegal. The fines are hefty because even the government understands that not looking at the road when you’re driving on the actual road is a stone-cold recipe for major yuckiness.
In Queensland, it’s a $1,000 fine and four points. Get caught again in a year, and it’s another $1,000 and eight points. If you’re under 25 and on your Ls or Ps, then you can’t even use the hand-free or speaker option on your phone. Don’t even look at it, pretty much.
Does that stop anyone?
Not really. Like the death penalty in Texas, the hefty fines aren’t really a deterrent. People still stare at and tap on their phones with terrifying regularity.
Whatever it is they are tapping – and it can only be a critical message to someone important, or a vital update on their Facebook and Instagram status or Twitter account – whatever it is, it is obviously so time-crucial and significant, they are prepared to commit blood-drenched manslaughter in order to carry it out.
It’s either that, or they are such a complete and utter, world-without-end-or-hope, self-obsessed nut-case, their pathetic lives cannot continue without their constant and pitiful smartphone inputs.
And because of this, motorcyclists are killed and maimed – certainly not in vast numbers, but that is hardly the point, is it?
The death of one motorcyclist due to someone being a self-indulgent piece of smartphone-tapping humanity is one death too many.
I do my bit.
I see someone texting, I tap on their window, and shake my head in grim disapproval. Sometimes I get an embarrassed “Sorry.” But most times I’m told in no uncertain terms to get lost and mind my own business.
So when I’m not feeling chatty, I just pull up next to them and depress the horn button beside their window, which only works if the horn is loud. Alternatively, I bounce the bike off the rev-limiter, but that only really works if the bike has a good pipe. Otherwise it just sounds like I’ve gone mental and forgotten how to ride.
What I would like to do is something else entirely.
What I really want to do to people texting on their phones is to teach them the value of another person’s life.
And how that life is ever so much more important than what they’re texting on their phone when they should be paying attention to driving.
But the teaching of that is not even remotely legal.
Just like texting on your phone.
Don’t do it.
The slightest lapse of attention on your part can, at the very least, cause you to bump into or sideswipe another car. If you hit a pedestrian or a motorcyclist, there’s a good chance you will kill or maim them.
Somehow, that has to be more important than uploading a picture of your lunch.