Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Newspapers kill? If only.

There is nothing in this post about Simon Baker, but I thought I'd including his picture anway. Now down to business...

In this morning's newspaper, we were treated to another story about a young person on a cell phone (texting, natch) causing an accident. The kid drove into the back of a Waste Management garbage truck that was making a pickup, nearly pancaking the guy working the truck in the process.
The kid's dad disputes the police report that his kid was texting -- he says the cell phone rang and the kid looked at it. Oh, okay, that's different.
For those of you about to log out of this, this is not yet another one of my screeds about how we are becoming a society where anything on a screen is somehow more fascinating that the world around you. Although, anyone try to talk to a teenager lately? As they frantically text their friends about...what? Nice talking to you, kid.
Anyway, this is actually about newspapers.
Because once again, imbedded in the story about the kid rearending the garbage truck, was another using-cell-phones-while-driving apologist bringing up the fact that people do LOTS of things that are distracting while driving -- like putting on makeup, eating breakfast and reading newspapers.
Why are those the three things always brought up? I can't vouch for the first two, although as a runner who spends a lot of time on the road dodging cars and SUVS driven by cell-phone users who stare -- zombielike -- ahead as they have their fascinating conversation and would be completely oblivious to running me over, I can say I never NEVER have had to dodge someone putting on makeup or eating breakfast.
But reading newsappers? We wish. WE WISH.
Some 2,600 people a year are killed on the road because of cell-phone use. Another 303,000 are injured. These are 2005 statistics from livescience. com. No doubt, with the increase in texting, e-mail on cellphones, Iphones, etc., those stats have gone up.
Where are the stats of people killed on the road because of newspapers? C'mon, do a Google search. They aren't there.
Newspapers have been around for hundreds of years. Cars for more than 100. Where are all the stories over the past decades about newspaper-related car crashes?
Newspaper circulation would have to skyrocket (instead of plummeting like a chunk of blue ice from an airplane bathroom) for the statistics of reading-while-driving to come anywhere close to cell phone use while driving.
It's kind of quaint to see newspapers blamed for a problem that can in no way be tied to newspapers. In fact, isn't it a little ironic that the very technology that is driving newspapers out of business and is responsible for killing and maiming thousands on the road is trying to lay some blame on newspapers.

On another topic, I saw those "Jonas Brothers" that are so popular with the kids on a late-night talk show, think it was Kimmel, last night. The kids seem nice enough, but so boring and innane! Wow. I can only imagine what their music is like. Honestly, I don't think I ever heard it. Now I'm not saying we didn't have boring, innane music when I was a kid.
But the year I turned 14, Blood on the Tracks and Born to Run both came out. And changed my life.
I don't think the Jonas Brothers are changing any teenagers lives out there.


df said...

I used to be a regular reader of BOOOKS while driving, and miraculously I never had so much as a close call. I wouldn't recommend the practice, though. Thank god for audiobooks.
I would think reading a newspaper while driving would be a real challenge. The large papers would be hard to control with your knees, and the wind would blow the pages around.

rebecca said...

One of my professors used to write letters to his son while he was driving (down windy country roads, no less!) He showed me one of the pages when I expressed disbelief and it was a barely legible scrawl.

I drive 60 miles round trip daily to and from work. I'd say at least half the people I pass on the highway or see at stoplights are talking on a cellphone.

Honestly, who the fuck are these people talking to at seven a.m.? What could possibly be so compelling that you have to talk to someone that early?

I don't get it.