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Distracted Driver is Actually an Impaired Driver

Yesterday I was waiting at a red light behind a 1990s Subaru Legacy. When the light turned green the Subie driver “accelerated” to 20 mph in a 40 mph zone. My first thought was “someone didn’t finish their texting before the light changed”. Fortunately within 3 blocks they pulled into a left turn lane (no turn signal). I looked as I passed and discovered the driver was an ageing hippie with scraggly hair and beard sucking on what appeared to be a large marijuana cigarette. Recreational use in my state is now legal but there are some restrictions. Smoking it in public and operating a motor vehicle under the influence are prohibited.

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The restrictions look reasonable to me. This begs a question: is it appropriate to take the license plate and report the stoned driver to the police?

I would have said it the other way around. An impaired driver is actually a distracted driver. Yep, whether on pot, drugs, tired, all the same. I’ve been paying more attention lately to people coming up behind me. One that scared me the most was the guy dramatically talking to his friend waving his hands in the air and once in a while glancing where he was going. I changed lanes.

We used to be able to do that for any driving violations by reporting them to the state police. The program was discontinued. We are now supposed to call 911 for suspected drunk drivers which should apply to stoned drivers. There was another car behind him which followed him into the turn lane so I never saw the license plate.

We still have it in NJ, where dialing #77 on your cellphone puts you through directly to the NJ State Police. What is truly ironic is that handheld cellphone use is prohibited while driving, so if somebody on an expressway wants to report a dangerous driver, he must either violate the law, or pull over to the shoulder–which can be a dangerous place, given the number of distracted/drunk/stoned drivers who crash into vehicles stopped on the road shoulder.

And the number of troopers that have had their cars destroyed on the side of the freeway with lights flashing not to mention their own death.

There is no question that the shoulder of an expressway can be a very dangerous place to spend any time–even if you have appropriate warning lights and/or flares.

Along those lines, I am constantly amazed when I see how many people who pull onto the shoulder park only ~4 inches from the traffic that is zooming past at 65-75 mph. In almost every case, they could pull another 2-3 feet further to the right.

My FIL was a farmer and heard him talking with another farmer about whether to drive the tractor on the shoulder, on the drive lane, or half-way between. The consensus was to just drive on the drive lane because if you didn’t someone sure enough would come along and force you off the road. I think about that when I get behind a slow moving tractor on the road that could drive half-way on the shoulder and have a little more patience to get around him.

It was discontinued in OR because a report from a citizen was legally hearsay. It was forwarded to DMV which mailed the vehicle registered owner a notice which could be discarded with no repercussions. Expenditure of state police and DMV funds with zero revenue generated. I love irony. You could report an illegal cellphone user who gets away and be pulled over yourself and cited for illegal cellphone use. Perfect! I’ve had cellphone generation people inform me they called twice. When I return their call after arriving at my destination they ask why didn’t I answer. When I explain I was driving their response is so? I have tried to explain my “smarter than me” phone is in my back pocket and I would have to violate 2 laws to answer. Unbuckle my seat belt and use my cellphone while driving. On this mornings news a report of a fatal rollover crash in Southern Washington state. The state police found no driver and seatbelt unbuckled. They guessed the driver was not seriously injured and walked away. Later he was still missing and they expanded the search area and found the driver’s body an unusual distance from the vehicle. It was obvious he was ejected and not wearing a seatbelt. Dark irony. The driver was an experienced EMT! He had probably witnessed the result of not wearing seatbelts! Darwin award candidate?

,because the guy had a slow start and looked like a ageing hippie with scraggly hair and beard sucking on what appeared to be a large marijuana cigarette?

I was driving through the mountains of Pennsylvania when my insurance agent called me. I said sorry Tony, I can’t talk. It’s raining and I’m in the mountains and I don’t want to have an accident. I don’t know if talking while driving is legal in Penn or not. There were no signs anyway.

Are hands free phones allowed? They are in MD. Other phone calls or texts are not allowed.

You’re not allowed to text, but I think you are still allowed to make and receive calls.

Yes, they are. Although I do not initiate phone calls while driving, if I am expecting a particularly important call–and if the driving situation makes it reasonably safe to do so–I will answer a call via Bluetooth. The large display screen on the dashboard displays the identity of the caller (if he/she is in my list of contacts), so I can ignore the junk calls (which are most of them), and answer the call from my doctor, or the Veterinarian, or my attorney via Bluetooth. But, even if the caller is important, I won’t answer it if I am in a driving situation that makes it inadvisable.

All of that leads to the following question:
Are all of the folks driving late-model luxury cars with one hand, while holding a cellphone to their ear, just too damn stupid to be able to figure out how to use the Bluetooth feature that their car is equipped with?

You made some very good observations . . .

That said, I thought it was already proven that even if you’ve got both hands on the wheel and are using the bluetooth features, because your mind is multitasking, your situational awareness can suffer, increasing the chance of an accident

I still feel the best option is no talking on the phone while driving. period. Clearly, with certain professions, that’s not an option, but I’m talking about the majority of drivers

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I feel the same regarding Bluetooth. My car is over 7 years old and I have not paired Bluetooth with my cellphone.

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Here is a State-by-State list of what is allowed and what is not:

I don’t make calls in my car either unless I am stopped for some time in traffic, and then only to tell someone I might be late. I will answer calls, though, and hands free makes that safer. If I think it will be a long conversation, I tell the other party that I will call back when I arrive at my destination.

Mrs JT and I carried on a text conversation while she was on a 5 hour trip recently. I texted our daughter, riding shotgun, and she texted back her mother’s answer.

Yes, they are that stupid!

Not to say Bluetooth setup is all that easy on some of these cars, or replacement aftermarket radios, too. I really like the phone connected to the radio - lets me play whatever music I have on the phone or can stream from services. But I hate to talk on the phone when driving.

The law is very clear in some Provinces in Canada. You must not hold a cell phone in your hand while driving. Failure to abide by this rule is an offence subject to a fine and demerit points. $80 to $100 fine and
4 demerit points added to your driving record. No law against driving while smoking pot.