A few months ago, tooling along in my brand new Honda (aka "cute car"), I came to a stop at a red light. On my right, a police cruiser with lights flashing was investigating a fender bender. A total of three cars, the two that were in the accident plus the police car, were off on the shoulder. I was waiting for the light to change when -- bam -- someone crashed into me from behind. One of the police officers instructed us to pull over to the side of the road near the other two cars. "Everybody OK?" My husband and I nodded. "I saw the whole thing," the officer said. "So this won't take long."
As we were filling out paper work and exchanging insurance information (the other driver was mortified and cooperative), yet another car rear-ended a third car waiting at the red light. The road was so strewn with red and white glass that it looked like a holiday display. When my husband and I expressed amazement at the three crashes within the space of about eight minutes, the officer shrugged. "It happens all the time."
The cause of the second two accidents (I don't know what caused the first.): "distracted driving." Both drivers were "rubbernecking" instead of paying attention to the road in front of them. By the logic that the National Transportation Safety Board applied this week in its recommendation to ban all cell phone use by drivers, perhaps we should also ban police cars?
The accident that led to the NTSBs sweeping recommendation was similar to the one I just described, except that it was more serious. In Gray Summit, Mo., in 2010, a distracted driver crashed into a truck. Then, in an accordion pattern, two school busses crashed into him. Two people were killed and 35 injured.
The NTSB investigated and determined that the original crash was due to texting on the part of a distracted driver. As for the school bus drivers, one was found to be rubbernecking, and the other neglected "a timely brake application." Well, yes.
Along with suggestions that Missouri modify its school bus inspection regime, the NTSB recommended, to the entire nation, that we "ban the non-emergency use of portable electronic devices," including hands-free cell phones.