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Richard Wilson, MFN Contributer
Just recently in the parking lot of a local retail plaza, I noticed a minivan that was completely stopped in front of me yet was full of commotion within the passenger compartment. In what appeared to be the circumstances where perhaps a wasp or bee or some other hideous stinging or biting creature had entered into the van through an open window, I waited curiously behind the van to observe what I was sure would be a mass exodus from it. In the haste to be saved from the piercing sting or bite of the invading creature, the driver would perhaps leave the van in gear, so I certainly didnít want to be in front of it when that happened. So I waited just for a few moments, until I sensed that more was going on than an insect attack. I thought, maybe someone had become incapacitated and this situation called for a Good Samaritan. I would come to rescue and save them. I would be lauded as a hero; I might even get on the Today show or Good Morning America. So I pulled up to the side of the van and looked in.
It occurs to me that in terms of effect, an open-handed slap across the cheek or backside has much more immediate impact than the damage inflicted by a clenched fist. Slaps tend to be louder with a shrill piercing of the air, cover a greater area and the sting is much worse than that of a common wasp, bee, or other stinging or biting creature. This, an open-handed slap, is precisely the control tactic or maneuver being employed by the vanís driver, a woman, who I am guessing was in her early- to mid- thirties, in an effort to control the behavior of two apparent school-aged kids (I am guessing 7 to 9 years old or so) while a third child, a male toddler, looks on, perched catywompus in a car seat resembling more a rocket ship cockpit than any kind of car seat that I had ever seen.
The two older kids, a boy and a slightly younger appearing girl, were obviously embroiled in a tussle of sorts, alternating between their own attempts at hitting each other while simultaneously attempting to dodge the venomous strike of the adult trying to drive the van. The toddler, appearing the calmest of all the occupants of the van, had a finger inserted so far into his nose that it looked as if he had discovered how to manually change his mind. In addition to operating the van and engaging in the behavior control tactics of an open-handed slaps, the driver then retrieved a lit cigarette from the console area of the van. I thought, either the driver has completely thrown caution to wind, or she is beyond any doubt the most talented multi-tasking driver that has ever lived. Itís at this point I ponder what in the world could be more dangerous than that. Well, now I know. In addition to the cantankerous behavior of the two older kids, the toddler, catywompus in the car seat, who may eventually need assistance with finger extraction, driving a minivan, and smoking, these circumstances would have been rendered nearly 25 percent more dangerous had the driver been texting on her cell phone. Thank goodness for small miracles, as best I could tell the driver was not texting.
Within the last week, researchers have released preliminary results of studies conducted in order to asses the increased risks of accidents while drivers are texting on their cell phones. While the study has not yet undergone peer review and commentary, the study is consistent with several other indicators that find texting while driving is by far the most dangerous driving distraction today. The findings in these formal studies are supported in results from surveys conducted by groups such as AAA and state and federal governments. Several states are joining the legion of states that already have legislation criminalizing texting while driving. In fact, federal standards may be forthcoming, much like mandated laws concerning maximum safe speeds and drug/alcohol levels.
So as a public service safety reminder, if you happen to be driving and have to engage in crowd control or child management involving the use of an open-handed slap of a backseat occupant, you better not be texting. You might crash.
Richard Wilson is an attorney in Moundsville. His offices, Wilson Law Offices, are located at 515 Jefferson Avenue, and he can be reached at (304) 843-2300 or at www.wilsonlawoffices.com.