Smartphone distraction almost led to disaster


I was inspired to write by Opinion Maker Brian Johnson’s column, “Smartphones are sucking the fun out of life,” (June 12). 

A few years ago I visited my 3- or 4-year-old grandson and we walked to a playground with a large, elaborate pirate ship play set. He climbed to the ship’s wheel and as he placed his hand on the wheel he reached into his pocket and pulled out his (non-functional, parents’ discarded) mobile phone. I thought then that laws to regulate driving while distracted by talking are doomed. The next generation of drivers won’t be paying attention to those laws.

And thinking of “doom,” yesterday my wife and I stopped at a four-way stop intersection near Lowe’s and started again to continue across. A truck was approaching from the left – phone to the driver’s ear. Somehow I sensed and slammed on the brakes as the truck blew past the sign and us.

I normally wouldn’t do this, but the driver pulled into a parking lot and seemed otherwise harmless, so I followed and introduced us as the people he almost killed. He said, “I stopped at the sign, but I’m sorry.” He had no clue about the close-call situation and I didn’t bother trying to explain. He certainly stopped at some sign recently, but had no concept of the sign he just ran while another car was already moving and a tiny bit into the intersection. The rest of the world didn’t exist – only his phone conversation.

I am hopeful that by the time this conversation is heard for the 100,000th time there will be some solution to a growing problem of smartphone distraction.

Richard Thomas