Distracted | Editorial

In a recent issue of venerable publication that is the New Yorker magazine, there is a tiny slice of Mercer Island life. At the end of a long story about the ‘new’ type of burlesque shows, there is a small paragraph at the bottom right-hand corner entitled, “Constabulary Notes From All Over.” Erudite readers know and cherish this tiny, occasional feature that dips into the more ‘telling’ police reports published in newspapers around the country. This particular piece quotes a police report printed in the Mercer Island Reporter in October of 2011.

The paragraph in the May 13 issue gives the reader a shorthand version of an accident on Island Crest Way at 46th Street prior to the construction of the controversial ‘road diet.’ A young woman driving southbound left 70 feet of skid marks before hitting the last vehicle in a line of cars waiting to turn onto S.E. 46 Street. It goes on to relate that the driver was holding a Starbucks cup that spilled onto her lap.

It is easy to picture the sequence of events: other possible distractions, sheer terror, tears and regret — and the outcome. The teenager received a ticket for negligent driving.

Yet, she is not alone. Beyond 18-year-olds, drivers of all ages are at fault and not just those juggling Starbucks cups, but texters and talkers of all ages. It is safe to say, we have all been there — and most of us have been lucky. As regional police end their special enforcement to discourage distracted driving this past week, we can just hope that it will have made a difference. Yet, when we look at the growing number of new screens and devices appearing in new cars, it seems clear that a whole new set of distractions are placed in front of the driver. Many are useful, such as hands-free phones or screens that show maps. New data shows that even talking on the phone hands-free is also a dangerous task. We need to go beyond ‘hang up and drive’ to ‘shut it off and focus.’

The New Yorker bit is not the first time that the Mercer Island Reporter has appeared in national media. In 2003, a police report regarding a party and chocolate found its way onto the Jay Leno show. But that is another story.


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