Driving while talking on the cell phone is something I don’t like to do. Never have. I’ve always known that the combination could be deadly.
I remember getting my first cell phone. I was working for the sheriff’s office back then, when the phones were large and bulky. The only way you could use them as hands-free devices was to attach a hard-wired microphone to the unit. So that’s what I did for use in my police car. I kept the phone in a compartment in the center console and ran the wire to the sun visor, where I’d fastened the microphone. I’d bought the phone because there were dead spot areas in the far corners of our county where our in-car radios were useless. The phone made me feel a little safer since I often worked the graveyard shift alone, which meant backup, a state trooper, was often miles and miles away.
In those days, cellphones were still pretty much a novelty. One night, I called my mother to check on her well-being while I was working the 4-12 shift. She was amazed and got a huge kick out of the fact that she was talking to me while I was driving around. She kept asking me if I was really in my police car. We chatted for a few minutes, about nothing really, but it was enough to allow my thoughts to drift way from the task at hand—driving. Suddenly, a large deer darted in from of me. My headlights caught the animal just as it made a gigantic leap from the edge of the pavement to mere inches past the front bumper of my car. I was close enough to see the frantic look in its eyes. I hit the brakes and luckily missed the animal, barely, but I knew then that talking on the phone while driving was very, very dangerous. I never again used that phone while my police car was in motion. My mother, poor thing, had heard the commotion and it nearly scared her to death thinking something had happened to me, which is sort of funny since she was very tiny and frail, and I’m, well, let’s just say, much larger.
According to a 2010 CBS news report by correspondent Kelly Wallace, 1.6 million accidents were caused by drivers using their cell phones. That’s a huge increase over the 636,000 cell phone-related accidents in 2008. Wallace went on to say studies have shown that drivers are four times as likely to crash when using hands-free devices than non cell phone users. And drivers who text, dial, or email are 23 times more likely to crash.
An excellent example of just how distracting and deadly cellphone use can be took place in North Carolina last weekend. The driver of a tractor trailer was using her cell phone while traveling along I40 near High Point. She said she looked up and saw brake lights, so she applied her own brakes. But it was too late. She was traveling at 50mph when she slammed into the back of a Toyota Camry.
Fifteen-year-old Darryl Baucum and his eleven-year-old brother, Ishiah Reynolds, were killed in the accident. The two boys were riding in the back seat of the Camry. Their mother was driving the car at the time of the accident. She and another son remain in the hospital. Four other cars were involved in the chain reaction pile-up. Eight people were transported to the hospital.
Darryl Baucum was killed in the I40 crash
The driver of the tractor trailer, Jayne Perkins of Arkansas, was charged with two counts of misdemeanor death by vehicle. She was released on $10,000 bond.
Ironically, a second crash occurred in the same location just hours later. A 26-year-old female was killed in that accident.
It is not illegal to use a cell phone while driving in North Carolina.