Texting and driving and the Long Arm of the Law


I keep seeing the “It Can Wait” public service commercials. There’s a website, itcanwait.com, where you can sign a pledge to never text and drive. I’d go there and sign the pledge, but I don’t need to. I have my mother instead. And my girlfriend. Together, they converted me (through strategic harping) to a “no texting while driving” policy.

Yes, I’m in my 50s. But I am still easily motivated by the threat of women I care about being mad at me. So I don’t text and drive.

And I was doing the “hands free” thing long before the law in Nevada demanded the same. I got my BlueTooth going in my car’s dash. Bump a button on the steering wheel to answer a call. Bump a button to place a call, then use the voice activated thingamajig to connect to the right number.

I even connected my GPS to my BlueTooth. I speak the address to Madge. Madge is the little tiny woman inside my phone who knows directions to everywhere. Madge talks me in.

Truth be known, I think of cellphone/driving laws like I think of seat belt laws, which is to say I generally don’t need the state’s help not to be stupid. I always think of Jerry Seinfeld’s bit: “What exactly is the point of motorcycle helmet laws. As near as I can tell, motorcycle helmet laws are made to protect brains functioning so poorly that they don’t know enough to protect themselves.”

So, I’ve been a very good boy. Until last Sunday. When, apparently, I became a very bad man.

It was a Joseph Day. Just diggin’ my 11-year-old these days. We build things. We catch trout. We imagine. We argue over whether his Eagles will beat my Packers at Lambeau this year. He and I will be there. Section 111, Row 7.

We had just seen the movie “Pacific Rim.” And now we were off to buy a couple of mice for King, Joseph’s Arizona mountain king snake.

Northbound on Buffalo Drive, toward Charleston Boulevard. Ah, the motorcycle cops are trapping today. I see two people whose Sunday has been interrupted by the Long Arm of the Law. I look down to confirm that I’m driving at a law-abiding speed. See, there’s this neurotic reflex in me. Whenever I see a police officer, I immediately have this anxious feeling I’ve done something wrong. Did I kill anyone today? Rob a bank? Deal drugs? Am I speeding?

Anyway, Joseph is deliberately teasing me by playing this awful rap song through his cellphone. I tell him that, in hell, the song plays for eternity. He laughs and begins to car dance to the music, just to rub it in. He reaches for my phone, lying on the console, threatening to download the song into my ring tones.

I come to a stop in the left hand turn lane. Red light. I grab the phone away from Joseph in a ceremonially, playful wrestling. I push the button on the phone, returning the screen to “home,” pointing dramatically to the screen, reminding him this is my phone. We are both laughing out loud. The light changes. I turn left.

“Whoop-whoop,” goes the siren. And just like that I’m pulled over and written a ticket for using my cellphone while driving. Apparently the motorcycle cop was sitting right next to me in the other left-hand turn lane, watching the whole thing, drawing his own erroneous conclusions. When I flat denied using my cellphone while driving, he said (in the classic, uber-calm police officer voice) that he would be testifying he saw me pushing buttons.

Then he asked me if I was having a nice day. And if I had a brother. I’ve decided to remember him as Officer Non Sequitur. Truth be known, he was a nice guy. Utterly professional.

I was too dumbstruck to feel angry. I just sat there and drowned in incredulity.

So, do I cancel appointments and lose the income and try to make my case in traffic court? And, what is my case? Can I cite qua absurdum as a precedent? Yes, technically, while sitting cold stopped at a red light I pushed a button on my phone when I retrieved it from the little urchin (whom I adore) to my right. But sheesh!

Or do I just pay it and thank Las Vegas for keeping me safe?

I told Joseph I’m having him arrested for bad rap music.

Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Las Vegas Psychiatry and the author of “Human Matters: Wise and Witty Counsel on Relationships, Parenting, Grief and Doing the Right Thing” (Stephens Press). His columns appear on Sundays. Contact him at 227-4165 or skalas@ reviewjournal.com.