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Off-Road Rant - Editorial - January 2011

Posted in Features on January 1, 2011 Comment (0)
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Cell phone drivers are really starting to piss me off. I live in the state of California-a state that made talking and texting on cell phones both illegal by 2009. I remember when the laws passed, and it was wonderful on the roadways for a few months. Traffic flowed more smoothly, people didn't lag so much or unknowingly swerve at me when I was on my motorcycle, and I didn't have to let so many people know what I thought of them. California's citizens were told that the anti-cell phone laws were going to be enforced, and that repeat fines were going to be hefty for motorists who wouldn't put down their mobile devices.

Since I always have a camera handy, I sometimes snap shots of people on their phones or being dumb on the road. And, yes, it is satisfying that it makes them nervous. This is one of my favorites - this guy was actually drinking a beer in a paper bag while sitting at a stoplight. Nice job, role model.

I was so excited. I rarely talked on phones when driving anyways (driving is a privilege, not a right, and it demands your full attention), and as a streetbike rider, I especially hate it when some jackass on his/her telephone tries to end me at 80 mph.

And California's freeways were, for the first time in years, getting better to drive on with the no-phone law in place, and I thought that people might actually start paying more attention on the roadways.

But the good times quickly came to an end. While some people simply stopped the talking on the phone while driving, and some people got cell-phone tickets, the good majority of drivers realized that only a tiny percentage of cell-phone drivers actually get pulled over, and seem to completely ignore this law.

On the way to work this morning, I got stuck behind a person on her phone doing 54mph in the left lane, with half-mile gap in between her car and the one in front of it, and other drivers passing on the right at 15-20 mph faster. Later in my drive, a semi-truck driver on his phone ended up three quarters of the way into my lane before he realized that he'd skipped lanes and pulled back. In total, I saw seven people on their phones during a 20-mile drive to the office this morning. When I do my normal 75-mile commute from my house to the office, I lose count of how many I see.

I blame California's law enforcement. Guys, the public can't enforce this; only you can. California is absolutely broke right now, so this seems like a no-brainer to make some money and make the streets safer. And there are a lot more cops out writing tickets lately in California, but it seems they're busting speeders because a speeding fine brings more revenue in than a cell-phone ticket. In fact, I've seen at least five different instances in which a cell phone driver drove directly past an officer in the next lane over, only for the officer to not bother to pull them over.

We've got terrible traffic problems and a state with no money-I would think busting drivers that aren't paying attention and/or talking on their phones would be a first priority for law enforcement.

Oblivious and distracted drivers are absolutely, without question, the No.1 ultimate cause of traffic and accidents. Aggressive drivers often are the easiest to blame, but I guarantee that most accidents involving aggressive driving also involved someone who wasn't paying nearly enough attention to the road. And I don't mean to just single out phone talkers-it's people adjusting their GPS, texting, putting on makeup, eating soup, drinking 40s (yep, 'seen it), shaving, painting nails, admiring themselves in the mirror, talking to their passengers, and reading books on their steering wheels. Oh, and by the way, talking on a Bluetooth is almost as bad as having a phone in hand-the problem is that attention is drawn away from driving, not the fact that there is something in the hand.

Any of the above hazards should warrant a heavy fine or license suspension, in my opinion. Driving is a privilege, and a car can be a loaded weapon if one is not careful. If you went to a firing range and started reading a book while aimlessly shooting off your gun, I guarantee they would pull your permit. So should be the same with a driver's license.

This month...
The staff got together and chose our four favorite rides of 2010 for our annual Top 4 Trucks January issue. And this year we picked a Ford, Chevy, Dodge, and a Toyota-and without stuffing the ballot box to make everyone happy!

Besides that, we also got some coverage of Huckfest 2010, and added a few new departments to the magazine. Our journalist-at-large, Jay Kopycinski, is putting his engineering skills to use with his own new piece called Kopycinski's Brain. On top of that, we now have a monthly section devoted to off-road engine building, called Off-Road Engines. Lastly, I think you're really going to like Jordan May's new addition to the magazine-Off-Road Dissection. In the Dissection, Jordan will be tearing down pieces of off-road trucks, showing you how the parts on your truck go together.

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