Driving can be hazardous to your health - Valerie Baldowski

I was stopped at a traffic light the other day and saw something frightening.

I could see by the silhouette of the person sitting in the driver's seat that the motorist behind the wheel was not paying attention. She was, as I like to say, in her own little world.

I could clearly see she was leaning over, looking into the rear-view mirror, and putting on mascara. So much for keeping an eye on the traffic.

I'm glad she didn't decide to throw it in reverse and back up -- she probably would have plowed into me.

I used to work with a lady, who regularly drove while distracted. To this day, I clearly remember her admitting she habitually drove while eating and drinking, talking on the cell phone and fixing her hair.

Since her hands were occupied, she steered with her knees on the steering wheel. Those are the people I try to stay as far away from as I possibly can. They're rolling accidents waiting to happen. The lady had been struck by lightning more than once. Maybe it affected her reasoning or judgment.

I have been the victim of someone not paying attention while driving. I was stopped in traffic one day, waiting for the vehicle in front of me to turn left, and all of a sudden, my car was rear-ended. I jumped out of my car, and what did I see but the other driver emerge from her car with a cell phone to her ear. I don't think she even put away the phone.

She was apparently talking with a family member when the accident happened, so she quickly hit the dial button again and called 911. Some people seem to have cell phones growing from their ear like a fungus.

Another time, my husband was walking by the side of a busy road in Clayton County, when he was almost run over by someone trying to drive while looking at a map at the same time.

The car veered and jumped the curb onto the sidewalk. He barely escaped injury by leaping to safety over a brick wall. He told me later that he, at first, didn't see the driver, because the map was opened up so wide, it obscured the driver's vision. The guy saw him in the nick of time and avoided him, but he didn't even stop.

Another time, my husband and son were walking along the grass by the side of another road just blocks from our house. Some dude driving too fast, and talking on his cell phone, passed by just inches away, narrowly avoiding hitting them. My husband had to pull my son to safety. That guy didn't stop, either.

I know when my cell phone rings while I'm driving, there's a temptation to answer it. I don't, because my gut feelings say to pay attention to the road.

I am always afraid that if I take my eyes off the road for a few seconds to lean over and fish my phone from my purse, and hit the answer button, that's all the time needed to get into an accident. I let the call go to voice mail. If I really need to make a call, I'll pull off the road, or into a parking lot.

Atlanta drivers are notorious for their insane driving habits, and pedestrians as well as cyclists take their lives into their hands when they venture out of their cars.

I know multi-tasking can be a good thing when you're trying to use your time productively, but one can go overboard with that. When I learned to drive when I turned 16, I was told to keep both hands on the wheel and pay attention to what's going on around me. People these days seem to have forgotten that.

My advice? Focus, people!

Valerie Baldowski covers government and politics for the Henry Daily Herald. She can be reached at vbaldowski@henryherald.com.