A 21st century highway hazard. Call it: DUIK.
It’s a slow Monday (which means no Oprah, Franzen, Harry Potter or Stieg Larrson news), so I bring you this alarming story from late last week: A new highway hazard has been discovered in Portland, OR, where a city bus driver was filmed reading a Kindle while driving. The bus. Full of people.
I’ve been arguing against the dangers of the Kindle for some time now (it’ll kill bookstores, turn us into cyborgs, order Skynet to wipe out humanity, yada-yada). But in my most fevered dreams I never imagined we’d have to worry about city buses piloted by Kindle-reading drivers.
But that’s what happened in Portland when passengers on a regular morning TriMet route noticed the bus driver apparently engrossed in a Kindle propped on the dash beneath his steering wheel. As you can see in this video from KGW.com, the driver, 40-year-old Lahcen Qouchbane, pushes buttons on the Kindle, evidently turning pages.
At one point, Quochbane leans forward in the familiar posture of the deeply engaged reader, steering the bus with his elbow. Passengers claimed he seldom had both hands on the wheel.
The video was shot on on a cellphone by a passenger who wished to remain nameless. The route into downtown Portland follows something called the Terwilliger Curves. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like something that might require a driver’s full attention.
“When I departed the bus, he asked if I took his picture while he was driving. I said I had, and he responded that I was not allowed to take his photo while he was driving,” the passenger said.
Quochbane, a TriMet driver since 2000, was immediately placed on paid administrative leave while the matter is being investigated. Spokesperson Bekki Witt called the incident “totally unacceptable,” adding that drivers are not allowed to have any electronic devices while operating a bus, including cellphones or iPods.
The KGW.com reporters failed their full journalistic duty, however, by leaving out the most important detail of the entire story: What in the name of God was he reading?!? Inquiring minds want to know, don’t they?
In fairness to Quochbane, I certainly appreciate being into a book so much that I don’t want to put it down. In fact, this has happened to me several times recently: With David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story, and Dave Zeltserman’s truly demented noir-horror monsterpiece, The Caretaker of Lorne Field.
But not, I hasten to add, while driving. In fairness to Portland, though, I imagine the drivers are not quite so insane as they are here in my locale, South Florida. Among the horrors I’ve seen:
A man driving sedately down I-95 with a large book propped open on the steering wheel.A women in a van full of children adjusting a portable TV sitting in the passenger seat. People reading newspapers or magazines. And my favorite: A woman weaving in an out of traffic like she’s competing at Le Mans while using the rear view mirror to apply eye liner and mascarra.
Have you ever seen someone reading or otherwise engaged in deadly distractions while driving?