Mad Men’s Don Draper and Suzanne Farrell
Photo courtesy of AMC

A story in the NY Times today reports that British courts sentenced a young woman to prison for texting while driving, an act that unintentionally caused the death of another young woman, whose car had broken down by the side of the road.

Driving in Los Angeles, I am acutely aware of how many drivers continue to talk on hand-held phones and may also be texting. On the freeway, I estimate about 1 out of 2 are talking.

Dazed and Confused on Magnolia

The other day, I was driving west on Magnolia near Van Nuys Boulevard. A woman in an SUV, with a car full of dogs, was plodding along in the right lane, at about 20 MPH. As I passed her, I could see she was texting.

When my car reached the red light at Van Nuys Boulevard, I tried a little experiment with the SUV texting woman behind me.

I did not accelerate when the light turned green. She was right behind me, and completely absorbed in her texting. In my rear view mirror, I watched as this utterly self-absorbed driver did not honk or care that the light had turned green. Her only reference as to whether it was time to accelerate was my bumper. She had no compelling need to drive, because she was texting.

For years, I have wondered why the LAPD allows drivers to speed through red lights. The only intersection where the law is enforced is at Van Nuys Boulevard and Burbank, and the mustached motorcycle cop who writes tickets here, at the least crowded time of day, has an easy job, pulling over motorists who make a right turn on red without stopping. (I was one of these last year). It is an easy way to boost revenue. But in terms of danger, it does not measure up with the 60 MPH red light runners who run through Chandler at Woodman.

I’m still waiting for the real enforcement of the motoring laws. We all drive in safer cars these days, but in terms of our safety, it is as dangerous on the roads now as it was when a gin soaked Don Draper got into his ’62 Cadillac and headed up the Taconic State Parkway.

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