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rules of the road

I was cruising down the expressway recently when a radio show reported plans to raise the texting-while-driving fine to $1,000.

I had already read this story in the paper, seen it on television and heard it twice earlier on radio, so it wasn't a surprise. Neither was the fact that seconds later, I was passed by a woman driving with her left hand and texting with her right. If only they'd texted the news to her. Nor did it come as a shock shortly afterward when a caller to a talk show complained about already being fined three times for texting while driving, and calling the heftier fine "a cash grab."

Obviously, these are not the kind of people who are going to be deterred by a $1,000 fine or the likelihood of a Fast & Furious smashup.

This series of events provided proof of one of nature's immutable laws: namely, that a significant percentage of the people we share the road with are certifiably insane.

How else to explain the actions of those who risk death in order to exercise their constitutional right to express themselves digitally and believe that "hands-free" refers to the steering wheel and not a cellphone?

Texting at the wheel might be excusable if it were done for life-or-death reasons, say a surgeon passing on emergency bypass instructions or a husband warning his wife that hot-water tank salespeople have been spotted in the neighbourhood.

But as sure as General Motors will issue recalls, the vast majority of violators are not using their mobile devices to save lives. They're more likely sharing an "OMG" with Tiffany, updating their Facebook profile or liking the cat video they watched while passing three 18-wheelers on the shoulder of the highway.

As mad as road texting is, it's far from the only evidence that could be presented at a sanity hearing.

Who knows what produces this madness? It may be the byproduct of battling heavy traffic, rude drivers and suicidal pedestrians, or being confined in a small space while listening to call-in shows. Either way, there's plenty of evidence that road insanity is rampant. I:

have witnessed drivers making U-turns on a red light.

have recoiled in horror as drivers, realizing they made the wrong exit off a highway, reversed on a ramp.

once came across a wild-eyed guy driving in the wrong direction on a one-way street, screaming at everyone else to get out of his way.

once made a right turn off a busy four-lane road only to be greeted by a woman hastily backing up at speed toward and subsequently into me after making a wrong turn.

Recently, I parked to go into a pharmacy and noticed that the car next to mine was both unoccupied and still running. I emerged 15 minutes later to find it still unoccupied and still running.

It was tempting to wait for the driver to emerge, wondering if he or she possibly had two heads or was a member of the Canadian Gas Wasters Society. But I decided that what I would probably find would be rather disappointing: just another certifiable driver.

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