Monday, April 12, 2010

Oprah, My Town Is Dissin' Your Zone Defense

HEAD’S UP: Yours Truly is still in North Louisiana trying to be the best patient advocate possible for my ailing Ma Ma. I arrived a few days after Old Girl was admitted to hospital on 31 January in atrocious shape. While much better, she is not yet well enough for me to return to Gotham where there are at least eight million stories. Dutiful daughter that I am, I remain in the southern branch of the family seat. Happily, I do have stories. And I plan to tell them.

DEAR Oprah:

Hello … I hope you are sitting down.

On two different occasions yesterday a driver was coming at me so fast from behind that I was certain that I was going to be rear-ended. I braced myself for impact or a quick departure from the road. Luckily, each driver stopped just in the nick of time. Incredible as it may seem, that’s happened several times in the last few weeks.

One day I was waiting for an approaching car to pass so that I could make a left turn. In the time it took the driver to reach me I could have, of course, made the turn. I could have also had a manicure, pedicure and shopped for a few personal items at CVS.

A few days ago the driver in front of me sat until the green light was about to turn yellow before she went through it. I thought she was sleeping at the wheel because her head was bent down like she was dozing off.

Oprah Winfrey has designated April 30 "National No Phone Zone Day." Image from Harpo Productions, Inc.

All around me automobiles are going too slow or too fast or swerving to avoid each other or to avoid going off the road. These drivers are not drunk or high – at least not on drugs. At least I don't think so. What I am sure of however, is that they are DWT, that is driving while talking/texting.

Oprah, please consider visiting my hometown of Monroe, Louisiana to make a personal appeal to residents to stop driving while talking/texting. Sooner or later someone is going to be seriously injured or killed by someone involved in this dangerous practice. Already, thousands of people around the country have died or been injured in DWT incidents.

The last few months you have been on a mission to convince drivers in the United States, and I am sure the world at-large, to stop using their cell phones to text and talk while they are driving. You have a catchy phrase for it in “No Phone Zone.” I applaud you for bringing this to my attention. It was not until recently an issue near and dear to my heart because I live in New York. I mainly get around on public transport. Occasionally, I take a taxi and who knows what they are doing in the front seat. In any case, there is a hands-free law on the books.

Indeed, you have made a big issue out of DWT. On several occasions you have dedicated segments or the entire Oprah show to this issue with facts, stats and charts to hammer home the point that DWT is dangerous and deadly. Numerous guests have disclosed how their DWT or someone else’s has impacted their lives. In every case there has been injury and/or loss of life. Visitors to can take the NPZ pledge and even create their own 60-minute public service announcement, which may be aired on your show. You routinely ask guests to take a NPZ pledge and most of them do it in part. Most who can’t give up talking at the very least pledge to use a hands-free set while talking. While only marginally better than holding the phone, it is a start. You’ve issued an edict at Harpo Productions that no employee is to do phone business for while driving. You've also requested that employees conduct no personal phone business while driving. A whole section of your Web site is dedicated to convincing people to stop DWT.

Yet, in Monroe where I have been the last nine weeks on family business at least half the drivers, in my estimation, either do not watch your show or have decided to ignore your pleas. This is such a good cause I cannot imagine anyone not wanting to join. I’ve noticed the aforementioned and other incidences of DWT such as serial tailgating because I am driving again for the first time in 11 years. I earned my driver’s license on March 2 after attending driving school, taking the vision, written and driver’s test and for several weeks familiarizing myself with Louisiana traffic laws as if I were studying for comps. Unfortunately, in Louisiana, which is the case in most of the rest of the country and world, there is currently no law on the books outlawing DWT. Only a handful of municipalities like New York and Washington, D,C., outlaw hand-held phones. The laws will eventually change, but only after the senseless loss of more life.

Last week as I was leaving the supermarket parking lot, two drivers of SUVs almost crashed into each other. One was on the way out; the other was on the way in. Both were chatting distractedly on their cell phones.

Oprah, come soon – maybe on April 30, which you have designated “National No Phone Zone Day" – before somebody else is seriously injured or killed.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.


V. Wright

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