Commentary rgv drivers need to focus sandra sanchez themonitor.com z gas cd juarez telefono

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On Tuesday, I thought a driver might be having medical issues as he drove 15 miles under the speed limit and straddled the middle of both lanes, preventing anyone from passing him on Canton Road in Edinburg. When I did get beside him, I saw he held his cellphone in his right hand and was texting with his left, while squinting hard at it with his glasses atop his head. I guess he was steering with his thighs.

Thankfully at the next light he put his phone down and I thought he would finally focus on the road. But that wasn’t long lived, because as soon as he put his phone down, he picked up a fat cigar and a lighter and once again wobbled between both lanes as he tried to ignite his tobacco.

Note that I was then just as guilty as him because I was also driving distracted — distracted by his distracted behavior, which I feared would cause an accident. And this is the problem. We’re all so busy doing so many things that we fail to do the one thing we are licensed to do: Drive.

Over 40,000 people were killed in distracted driving-related vehicle accidents in 2017; that’s up 6 percent from 2015. In Texas in 2017, there were 100,687 traffic accidents involved distracted driving that resulted in 444 deaths and 2,889 serious injuries, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

I hoped things would improve after the Texas Legislature passed a statewide law that took effect Sept. 1, 2017, prohibiting motorists from reading, writing or sending electronic messages while driving. A first offense is punishable by a fine of $99; additional offenses can bring $200 fines.

I realize placing the onus on law enforcement to police distracted drivers is asking a lot. We should, after all, as a society be responsible enough to know that a 4,000-pound car and a 6,000-pound pickup truck require our full attention. But we need law enforcement to intervene, because too many drivers lack common sense, just don’t care or are so self-absorbed in their social media they can’t part with it for even a drive.

So officers: Please pull over vehicles whose drivers at night are face-down looking at a little screen with the reflection glowing on their faces. Please pull over drivers scrolling through social media feeds. And please pull over drivers who are talking on hand-held phones in school zones.

If you agree, then please participate in the May 16 Ride of Silence, which will begin at The Monitor’s parking lot at 1400 E. Nolana in McAllen. Hear from families whose loved ones have been hurt by drivers. Know that cyclists with red arm bands have all been in accidents involving vehicles and most will tell you it was because the driver was distracted.

Even if you don’t plan on riding a bicycle, come out and show support. Show respect. Show your community that you are taking the time to recognize that we can all safely share the roads. This free event is sponsored by the Run, Ride, Share organization and Team McAllen Cycling and begins at 6 p.m., with wheels down at 7 p.m. Come ride (or watch) and take an evening to acknowledge why we need to focus and be more considerate on area roads.