Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Whatever you need to say can wait if you are behind the wheel

I have a friend who comes closer to being the perfect TO (Trained Observer) than anyone I know.
Let us call him Clark, although that is not actually his real first name. It comes close, though, and a lot of people know him by that name, so let us use it here in order to protect his identity — and to proceed with the parable.
He told a story over lunch the other day that could be equally harrowing and infuriating. I prefer infuriating.
He was driving west on Johnnycake Ridge (Route 84) and the car ahead of him veered off the right-hand side of road — twice.
Something was obviously very wrong, either with the driver or the car.
It could have been a mechanical defect in the steering. Perhaps the driver had a couple of belts — and I don’t mean seat belts. The belts I am referring to come from a bottle.
Clark maintained an assured clear distance, as the police like to say, because he didn’t want to get involved in a crash.
But he was curious to know what was taking place, because the erratic driving was endangering every other driver on the highway.
The two vehicles approached Center Street (Route 615) in Mentor, and Clark was able to pull up beside the suspect car to observe what was going on.
As it turns out, the driver was a female. I shall not give her the benefit of calling her a lady, because she was a menace and a threat to everyone in sight. A lady wouldn’t do that.
She was not particularly young or old. She could have been in her 30s or 40s. And as Clark peered into her car, he could see what was taking place.
She had an electronic device on her lap, and she was looking down and tapping furiously with both thumbs.
She was messaging.
Oblivious to everything going around her, she was sending someone a message.
That is despicable conduct, unbecoming a safe driver or anyone who has the brains that God gave geese.
I don’t need to say much about this person, except that I hope she didn’t kill anyone on the way to wherever it was she was going.
I looked in the paper the next day to see if there were any fatal accidents she might have been involved in, but I didn’t see any.
But anyone who drives while sending messages the way this person did is a candidate for instant death on the highway. She is, as they say, an accident waiting to happen. If all she does is run off the road occasionally, she is lucky. But one of these days she may veer in the other direction and crash into an unsuspecting driver head-on.
What can be done with terrorists like this? Yes, they are, in their own way, terrorists.
There have been ample warnings about this kind of conduct. We all know what can happen when you text and drive. Nothing good can happen.
When these offenders are spotted by the authorities, they should be arrested immediately and haled into court.
And if found guilty, they should be punished severely.
I would recommend horsewhipping, except I don’t think we do that in this country any longer.
In Singapore, they employ a form of punishment called “caning.” The guilty parties are taken out into the courtyard and beaten with canes, which I believe are made of bamboo. I understand this has a remarkable sobering effect.
Many years ago, I had a conversation with my close friend the late Judge Fred V. Skok, who presided over the Lake County Probate Court with an iron hand and was conversant with methods of punishment around the world.
He felt that the types of punishment employed in the Orient, or the Far East, or whatever it is now correct to call that part of the world, do have a certain impact, which he went on to explain.
Fred and I had a great many such philosophical discussions over the years. I miss him so much.
The main thing he felt was accomplished by punishment that inflicted pain was it resulted in a very low rate of recidivism. Put another way, when you got out of jail, you really didn’t want to go back. In fact, you made it your business not to go back.
I certainly do not  mean to imply that Fred would ever have condoned that sort of punishment. We simply do not do that kind of thing in this country.
And I’m not saying we should be doing that kind of stuff in this country, either. I’m just saying.


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