Sunday, January 2, 2011

Where there's Smoke there's Fire


Driving home from San Diego after a long weekend of celebrating the beginning of 2011, I found myself stuck in traffic and growing bored of the songs on the radio. In order to pass the time, I texted back and forth with a few friends and called one other. I know what you’re thinking, and yes, in California it is illegal to text or make calls while driving. But fortunately for me, cops don’t pull over white people in hybrids. At the same time, I do recognize the safety risk one takes when they text or dial a phone while operating a moving vehicle at 70 mph. And this got me thinking of another bad driving habit many people have that I believe is equally dangerous, if not more so, than texting or calling while at the wheel: smoking while driving. 

Think about it. In order to smoke, one must pull out their pack of cigarettes and then strike a match or spark a lighter. Once the cigarette is lit, the driver holds it in one of his or her hands while steering with the other—just the same way they would hold a cell phone while texting or calling. Sure these tasks don’t seem too difficult, but neither does texting "LOL" to the stupid message your friend sent you which is probably what leads to half the accidents on the roads these days. I would argue lighting a cigarette is just as distracting as dialing a phone, not to mention you won't ever catch on fire dialing a phone. If you drop your Droid while driving the worst that can happen is maybe you accidentally hang up on the person you were chatting with. If you drop a cigarette, the consequences can be much worse... 

About to rear end a car OR dropped a cigarette in his lap?
And "some people" might also point out that lots of Asian people smoke and lots of Asian people suck at driving. I personally would never say that because it's racist. But "some people" would.

Better than littering...
Until you drink it. 
Another benefit to banning smoking while driving would be the reduction of littering on our freeways and streets. While a driver simply tosses their cell phone onto the seat next to them when they’re done with it, most smokers throw their used cigarettes out the window, compounding one disgusting habit with another. I only know one person (my dad) who doesn’t litter his cigarettes when he’s done. Instead, he deposits the burning butt into a half filled bottle of water. This seemed like a genius solution until one time my mom accidentally drank out of one. She was not happy. So maybe it isn’t a great option after all. Maybe as an answer to the "Bluetooth" device for phones we can create some type of mechanism that lights your cigarette and places it in your mouth for you so you don't have to be distracted while driving. It can be called the "Yellowtooth."

And finally, while it can be argued that talking or texting on the phone too much can be mentally harmful, the facts about the physical toll cigarettes take on a human being are irrefutable. Which makes this New Year as good a time as any to find new ways to help people cut back on smoking. According to USA.gov, one of the top New Year’s Resolutions for Americans is to quit smoking, and as anyone who has ever been addicted to something can attest, giving up that vice can be nearly impossible. To date, in order to help smokers quit, there’s the patch, the chewing gum, and laws against smoking in office buildings and restaurants, among other places. I think banning smoking while on the road could be a step in the right direction to help eliminate one more part of the day where smoking would be a temptation.

We all have addictions.
And to make the deal even sweeter, if you promise to stop tossing your cancer sticks out the window at my speeding car, I’ll promise to quit talking and texting while I'm driving. I think this could be an awesome way to start off 2011 for all of us. 

Happy New Year!


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