Jeff Farrell: Drivers should pay attention to the road

Jun. 20, 2014 @ 06:16 PM

It might be time to invest in dash cams if you drive around Sevierville very much.

When a meteor exploded over Russia a few years ago, the Western world learned how many Russian drivers use dash cams.

We all started to wonder how so many people happened to have cameras running to catch footage of the detonation, and the answer was, Russians are horrible at driving. Their car accident rate is among the highest in the world, and former President Dmitry Medvedev once blamed it on the “undisciplined, criminally careless behavior of our drivers.”

I drive down Dolly Parton Parkway and either Highway 66 or Chapman Highway at least twice a day. I’m not prepared to indict local drivers the way Medevedev did, largely because most drivers on the road here probably aren’t local.

But between distracted drivers and people bewildered by altered traffic patterns caused by construction, driving here has gotten a lot more dicey.

I have gone two weeks now where each weekday, I’ve had to swerve or lay on my horn because someone in the construction zone was drifting into my lane. With the number of cars on the road now, and the amount of work going on, the danger as a driver doesn’t come from people trying to weave through traffic anymore. The traffic’s too dense for that.

You don’t get too far over 35 mph during rush hour, no matter how late you might be for work.

But there are quite a few drivers who seem to think that if they’re driving that slow, it should be safe for them to grab a smartphone and check their texts or possibly browse the Internet. And when you’ve got a cement barrier on one side and a Buick inching into your lane on the other, you start to realize that’s a miscalculation on their part.

I’ve also seen people sit through a light change while texting. At least I assumed that’s what they were doing as I turned left in front of them and watched them staring down at something out of sight.

I’m a little more understanding, but a lot more worried, about people who can’t figure out the newly modified traffic flow where northbound Highway 66 comes to the interstate.

For years, most people visiting Sevierville have gotten in the right lane some distance before they reach the ramp onto I-40 East — even the ones who were actually going past that, to turn right and get onto the westbound lanes of the interstate.

I’ve seen people drive straight into the shoulder. A couple have slammed on their brakes and just stopped until there was no traffic at all in the right lane.

Now that lane runs out at the overpass. People might not notice multiple signs saying “lane ends” and “merge now,” but when they realize they’re about to drive straight into a construction zone, they start making plans to get over.

This is an improvement, but still involves them trying to get into a densely packed lane of traffic. And for some folks, that consists of getting their car into the other lane and proceeding as though the other cars aren’t there.

They’re basically offering two options: You will slow down for me, or we will wreck. Even if I’m in the wrong legally, you still will be in a wreck.

The best thing you can say about those drivers is they’re completely self absorbed and weren’t paying enough attention to what they’re doing.

This is a family paper, so I’ll stop there.

The point is, there are a lot of divers who can’t pay more attention to where they’re driving than to their girlfriend’s Snapchat video, an ESPN score update or whatever’s coming over the smartphone, and who think that their failure to pay attention to a half-dozen warning signs constitutes an emergency in which other drives must get out of their way – as opposed to an opportunity to exercise patience.

If you drive on the highway as much as me, pretty much every day, this is either happening to you, or you’re shifting lanes or hitting the brakes because it’s playing out in front of you.

So maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a recording to give to police or insurance agents so you can say, “I’m not saying that guy caused the wreck. I’m just saying watch this.”

If nothing else, you can have some good YouTube video to show and, hey, you’ll be ready if a meteor passes overhead.