Friday, January 13, 2012

Put Your Hands Where I Can See Them

On Tuesday, I violated California's Distraction Free Driving vehicle code. And I got caught.

Alone in the car, talking to my women's pastor, then to my friend and fellow MOPS leader, I had my phone on speaker, but in my hand.

Apparently, the state takes that whole "hands-free" thing literally.

I tried to explain to the officer that I wasn't trying to break the law, I am really just that stupid, and misunderstood the law (thinking, I don't know, that it was an ear-free law?).

"Have you read the law?" he asked.

"Well, no."

"Then you didn't misunderstand. You just didn't bother to find out. And that bright blue phone you have? It's pretty easy for me to see."

Drat my obsession with the color turquoise!

The officer then explained that by law he could pull me over for driving unsafely if he sees me eating a hamburger or reading while driving. Anything that shows I am distracted.

"Can you pull me over if I have my kids in the car, because they are really distracting?"

Th officer did not laugh.

Accepting that I was not getting out of this ticket, I humbly sat in my car, thinking about Wonder Woman and a bus accident.

Over Christmas, my friend Lorene told me the story of how she was hit by a bus in Oakland on Halloween, while wearing her Wonder Woman costume. One minute she was driving, the next minute, her Element was embedded in the side of a city bus. And she wasn't on her cell phone.

The rest of Lorene's story is worth telling, though I'm fuzzy on the details. As she sat, dazed, in her totaled car, she looked and saw a fairy peering in her window. Actually, a woman dressed like a fairy, who kindly took Lorene to her van/home parked nearby, which was draped in sarongs and strung with twinkle lights. In this serene oasis, Lorene received the attentions of the Oakland EMTs, who were quite impressed with the fairy's van.

But I digress. I thought of Lorene when I got my ticket, because her experience informed her driving practices from that point on. If she can get hit by a bus when paying attention, what could happen when she's not really paying attention, which as a mother is at least half the time. We had a soulful conversation about the need to live in the present moment, particularly when we are behind the wheel of a 4,000-pound vehicle. I actually deeply believe this; we treat driving as down time, and like all down time, we fill it up. But driving isn't down time. It's the most dangerous thing we do every day.

I'm thinking I would rather not be hit by a bus in order to have this particular truth brought home to me, so I'm hoping the as-of-yet -undisclosed fine will do the trick. It's a lesson I clearly need to learn. Because on the way from the site of my infraction to my daughter's preschool just after the incident (a two-mile journey), I almost picked up my phone to call and tell someone what happened at least four times.

Then my friend who'd been on the phone when I was pulled over sent me a text: "Welcome to the ticket club. From a humble member." Then I thought, "Now I'm reading a text! Distracted again! Hands below steering wheel! Cops can tell what I'm doing! Quick, get my hands up where they can see them!"

So that is my new mantra in the car. Hands up where people can see them! If I use my phone so unconsciously that I do it 30 seconds after getting a ticket, I have a serious distraction problem. Probably even a dangerous one. So you too, fellow mommies. Put your hands where we can see them.

Now, what to do about those distracting children in the back seat?


  1. Hi Amanda,
    About 15 years ago I was in a rush and got pulled over for speeding. I was upset but after the CHP left I proceeded down the road and a few hours later passed an accident scene. I wondered if I could have been that car in that accident if I would have kept on speeding.
    I sent a letter to the CHP Officer with a card thanking them for pulling me over. A few months later I received a letter from the CHP commander saying they appreciated the letter and the office was commendation that was placed in his file.
    I would suggest writing a letter thanking the officer for being pulling you over. After all, it's made you stop and listen.
    Another thing I recommend doing is going to the court and asking the judge for a reduction in the fine. Never hurts to ask.

  2. I worry about the distraction thing myself...I am waiting for the day I get a ticket for using both hands to lick the last bit of carmel off the lid of my Starbucks cup while steering with my knee. I am making more of an effort to do this only at stop lights...which lends to the amusement of cars sitting next to me!