Amazed by distracted driving

I sure love a good Russell Crowe movie.

And that means pretty much every Russell Crowe movie. The Australian actor has been in some great ones: “L.A. Confidential,” “Gladiator,” “A Beautiful Mind,” “Cinderella Man.” The list goes on and on.

So, when I saw there was a new (well, new last year) Russell Crowe movie streaming on Amazon, I had to give it a shot. It was a movie called “Unhinged,” where a very heavy Crowe (he apparently gained weight – a lot of weight – for the role) plays a man who goes nuts after a road rage incident.

I don’t want to give away too many details, but this is a tense, brutal movie and Crowe plays a man who has come completely unglued very, very well. If you aren’t put off by violence and language, it is an intense film, but an entertaining watch.

But no, I am not here to write a movie review. It is the topic of the film that is so relatable – road rage. The encounter in the movie which sets off events isn’t even that bad. But you never really know how people are going to react to being honked at or yelled at or have an obscene gesture thrown in their direction.

There are many moments in the movie when you see drivers barely paying attention to the road. They are on cellphones, mostly, but also doing things like putting on make-up in heavy traffic.

Those things really hit home for me. Like everyone, I am amazed by the distracted driving these days. It is scary as hell. People staring at their phones weaving around the road or missing lights and generally making the road unsafe for everyone. Yes, scary.

As a motorcycle rider, it is especially frightening to see people around you in larger, deadlier vehicles not paying attention to what is going on. I am incredibly cautious but have too many near misses because people in cars are simply not paying attention to their surroundings.

Distracted driving causes about 3,000 deaths per year in the U.S., according to the department of transportation. And that doesn’t include the injuries and repair costs.

Yes, there are laws against texting while driving, and you are supposed to use a hand’s free device. But we all know that many people, if not most, simply ignore those laws. If you aren’t sure that’s true, the next time you pull up to an intersection, just look at the people around you. I guarantee you some will be staring at their phones.

I don’t blame the police here. Yes, their job is to enforce the laws, but I am sure they hand out tickets for these offenses as often as they can. But let’s be honest, it is such an epidemic, and a few tickets are a tiny ripple in the ocean of distracted driving.

This starts at home. If you have a teen learning to drive, make sure they understand that they need to be hands free so they can drive. Texting while driving is not only illegal, but also potentially deadly – for them and others.

And we need to remind our friends we are driving with to be safe and keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.

This is not complicated stuff, people. We all need to work to end distracted driving and stop with the road rage. Flipping people off doesn’t solve anything, even if it makes you feel better in the moment. I don’t want anyone having a guy like the character Russell Crowe played in “Unhinged” to be on their bad side.

Brad Jennings is the editor of the Ogle County Life.


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