Tis the season to be distracted

This is the time of year where I try to remain happy while dealing through the hectic holiday activities. Many of you, like me, try to slow down enough to enjoy the moment and count our blessings. Still, many try to hurry through what is needed to be done.

That is me, most of the time. Although while sitting at the intersection of 15th Street and Highway 500 down the hill from Camas High School, I had a moment that many will call an Oprah “aha” moment. As the light was green I proceeded, the car stopped to my left honked quite loudly, startling me. As I screeched to a stop, to my right was a red truck complete with cracked windshield that just barreled through his red light, not slowing down. I could see the man had his left hand on steering wheel, while his head was looking down towards his right hand making motions of texting. Yes, he was looking down and texting as he went through a red light.

It is a sad fact that there are thousands of stories of people losing their lives while being preoccupied with cell phones. I’m sure that almost everyone in our community has a story about being a victim of a close call. Or maybe being the one distracted and almost causing an accident. I choose a handless system when I drive, but I am also guilty as charged to have sent texts. Then an incident where I’m almost hit by another car, causes me to straighten up and be safe. But then my awesome ability of multi-tasking comes into play, and that little voice to stay safe becomes drowned out by all the other voices of things that have to be done. And maybe “just this one time.” How many of you are reading this thinking, “That’s me?”

The website Distraction.gov can give you several statistics about what distraction driving is. It is truly overwhelming: Texting, Using a cell phone or smartphone, eating and drinking, grooming, reading – including maps, using a navigation system, watching a video, adjusting a radio, cd or mp3 player, and talking to passengers. Well, all righty then. It seems ridiculous. Starbucks or any drive thrus would be in violation. How about the police officer in Vancouver I saw in a squad car playing the air drums with both hands? I guess “playing air drums” is not on the list, so it must be OK. I actually thought that distracted driving started with my father many years ago. How he could reach his hand in the back seat of our Corvair and slap all three of us bratty kids with one fell swoop, and not lose sight of the road, was a miracle. But it happened more than once. And we weren’t even wearing seat belts.

I would hate to be a statistic of an accident that was caused by distracted driving. That car whose horn honked to warn me of impending doom gave me my Christmas present for this year. It also comes with a volume lever that can turn up the little voice inside that says to stay safe while driving. And I am sharing that voice with all of you this holiday season. You know who are.

Margaret Svilar transplanted to Camas from Minnesota about 20 years ago. She retired from Northwest/Delta Airlines, where she worked for 30 years.