It’s a daily occurrence. We look out from behind our steering wheels at red lights and see drivers who are texting as if they are doing nothing wrong. In their minds, being at a red light must make it innocent and safe – that is until a police officer sees them, stops them, and tells them it’s not.
I have never seen a motorist ticketed at a red light and I often mutter how dangerous it is for people to text – even when not moving. I often wish those people would be ticketed. When the light turns green, do the driving texters instantly, perhaps in mid-sentence, really have their minds on driving?
I can say I have never texted in the car. I can say I never in recent memory held the phone while talking in the car. I can even say I don’t always answer the phone, hands-free or not. What I cannot say is that my cellphone is not always on me or right beside me when I am driving.
I recently left the gym after a vigorous workout in a great mood and was looking forward to lunching with a friend. Driving north on Woodroofe, approaching Baseline, I encountered a problem with the music from my phone. It was frustrating me. End of the world! My “car play” wasn’t working.
At the red light next to College Square I heard a “voice” telling me not to touch my phone. I didn’t listen. I took the phone and I don’t know how many seconds it took before there was a loud thump coming from the passenger window. Lo and behold, a policeman caught holier-than-thou-me breaking the law.
I pulled over as instructed. I showed him all my documentation and told him how I never do this. I actually told him ticketing distracted drivers was something I fully supported. I knew he couldn’t let it go and I didn’t think telling him I wasn’t texting would help. He went to his unmarked white van to write the ticket.
When he came back he acknowledged I had had a perfect driving record and, in a kind of caring way, he advised that distracted driving was an expensive ticket. I knew that but was stunned when he told me it was $490. Simultaneously the body punch hit my head and my stomach.
I think the officer might have actually felt badly as he thanked me for my cooperation. It was at that point I told him I was adjusting the music, not texting, and he said the phone was in my hand, my eyes were looking down, and that is distracted driving. He suggested I mount my cellphone on the dashboard.
I never thought of a need to mount my phone on the dashboard but I did once consider tinting my windows. I wonder if I had done that would my breaking the law have gone undetected. Tinting would have been less expensive, with no demerit points, but as we all know, life is full of would-haves and should-haves.
I realize that fixing the music on my phone at a red light is not the same as changing the station on the radio and that arguing that is silly. My eyes were looking down at my phone and they shouldn’t have been while behind the wheel. Period.
Friends told me if I went to see a justice of the peace and pled guilty that I might be able to get the huge fine reduced. I got in line and in less than an hour saw a totally humourless justice of the peace who told me in future to leave the cellphone in the back seat. She reduced the penalty from $490 to $290 and kindly gave me three months to pay.
I was recently FaceTiming with my daughter in Israel. She told me that a few days prior, her husband, with a perfect driving record, was at a red light in Jerusalem singing to himself while looking for music on his cellphone when he was pulled over. She told me it was an enormous ticket of 1,000 shekels, roughly $350 Canadian.
I guess it’s called “all in the family,” albeit, a world apart.