He could be thinking of Erin Lindsay-Calkins and her 5-year-old son, Nicholas. Witnesses said Erin appeared to be holding a phone to her ear on Dec. 22, 2009, when she crashed through the flashing barrier gate at a railroad crossing in Orange County. She drove into the path of a fast-moving train. Both were killed. Nicholas’ baby sister, Aven, survived.
Safety researchers cite other grim examples of phone-impaired drivers who behave as if they’ve been struck blind. They run red lights and blunder into disasters they should have seen coming, without even tapping their brakes. The National Safety Council says drivers on the phone see only 50 percent of the traffic information around them.
After a multitasking real-estate agent rear-ended Mike Stanford a few years ago, both drivers stopped their cars. Stanford walked back to speak to her, but she was still on the phone.
“She was holding her finger up and saying, ‘Just a minute, just a minute,’ ” said Stanford, who lives in Charlotte. “She was completing her call.”
Like Lokitz, Stanford says drivers should be barred from using their phones. He even wants to outlaw the hands-free style of phoning, which some drivers like to think is safer. “I hope they ban it all,” Stanford said.
But our phones are so convenient, and sometimes irresistible. Many drivers concede the issue of hand-held phones, but they don’t want to stop talking altogether.
“Years ago I put in a hands-free phone system,” John Robert Hooten of Oriental said by email. “And while one’s mind is diverted, it is no worse than tuning a radio or engaging in a serious conversation with someone in the vehicle. The state cannot legislate human behavior.”
Hooten raises the specter of overregulation by a “nanny state.” He sounds a theme that runs through lots of rationales for phoning while driving: Maybe it’s bad for us, the argument goes – but lots of things are