Here's Johnny - How to keep yourself (and me) alive this summer
As this is written, the sequel to the computer woes outlined in last week's column has me set to take my car to the shop for what may be a very expensive transmission repair job. Also, earlier this morning, workhorse senior Sun reporter Bob Vlach and I discussed Sunday'spower outage/Frankfort Road closure, and it was decided, mostly by Bob, that I do the story. In other words, I'm busy and about to go broke. Meanwhile, a good friend with an unnatural fear of bridges is about to cross one to return to the Bluegrass, and the best advice I could offer was to make sure her passenger lifted his feet whilst riding over said bridge. Oh, and to make sure they pay the bridge troll. Anyway, here's some of what I wrote this time last year in regards to driving and - you guessed it - the things some folks do while driving that irritate me almost as much as a failing transmission. (Tinkly dream music plays as shot dissolves to Here's Johnny of June 30, 2016.) And now, just in time for (the rest of) The Summer Driving Season, allow me to pass on a few thoughts that may save your life, or those of your loved ones, or even mine. With gas prices the lowest this time of year since 2005, the American Automobile Association predicts that 42.9 million people will be on the roads during the 4th of July weekend. All too many will be doing things studies have shown are even more dangerous than driving drunk: texting, emailing, Facebooking, Twittering or watching cute cat videos on their phone while driving. How fascinating that during the Independence Day weekend, a device millions of Americans are all too dependent on will play a role in hundreds of deaths and serious injuries. Kentucky's penalties against texting and playing on the Internet while driving are all but toothless: $25 for the first offense and $50 for subsequent offenses, plus court costs. Former Gov. Steve Beshear did stiffen the law a bit by allowing points against an offender's operator's license, and drivers under the age of 18 are not allowed to use a cell phone at all. That must be very hard for most of them: Imagine having to make do with listening to the radio while driving - or, worst of all, giving the road and other motorists your undivided attention. (Disclosure: I often listen to my music collection or NPR or sports talk radio while driving.) Kentucky's weak penalties against texting or emailing are only part of the problem - police say catching offenders is harder than it may seem. "In order for us to truly be able to say that we observed what looks like texting - for instance, if someone is pecking on the phone for 30 or 40 strokes, well then that's obviously not a phone call at that point," a Louisville Metro Police lieutenant told WFPL Radio in 2014. "It is difficult, but we do enforce it," said Lt. Michael Fortney of the Versailles Police Department. Last year around this time, I shared my dream of an admittedly far-out and almost-certainly illegal way to solve such problems that was inspired by working for two years in our nation's capitol. It was a device called The Vaporizer: Powerful particle beam generators are mounted in each headlight and taillight and hooked up to a monitor and joystick. When someone drives so badly they're clearly a menace to society, the driver of the Vaporized-equipped car (me) lines 'em up and takes 'em out. Voila: one less bad driver, and because the beams are incredibly powerful, no wreckage (and, I suppose, no evidence). Two decades after coming up with this idea, no one - to my knowledge - has invented such a device, or at least put it to good use. So I reckon it's up to those of us who'll never get particle beam generators mounted in our cars to try to make the roads safer for us and those in the running for the annual Darwin Awards. We can lobby our state representatives and senators to stiffen penalties against people who text or email while driving. We can email Gov. Bevin's office (but not while driving) and ask him to, while he still has a thick stack of Executive Order stationery left, do the job himself. We can tell our children and their friends to, at the very least, put their phones on "silent" while driving. And some of us can write columns begging people to set down their beloved smart phones before they do something stupid. I dunno if Microsoft Word is mightier than the sword, but I pen these thoughts hoping that one or two people will take heed - even if they read my rants on their smart phone. Dear Readers, your cell phones won't sulk if you ignore them for a few hours while behind the wheel. You can always restore your relationship with them by taking selfies or fireworks photos when you get where you're going - in one piece. Hey, as James Dean said in a public service announcement shot shortly before his death in a car crash, "Take it easy driving. The life you might save might be mine."