JWR Roger SimonMona CharenLinda Chavez
Larry ElderJonathan S. Tobin
Thomas SowellWilliam PfaffRobert Scheer
Don FederCal Thomas
Left, Right & Center
Jewish World Review / April 20, 1998 / 24 Nissan, 5758

Roger Simon

Roger Simon Freedom to be a jerk?

WASHINGTON -- Let us now praise the judicial system of Virginia for setting a national precedent: Jerk drivers there are finally being treated like jerk drivers.

Here are the facts, according to authorities:

During rush hour a few weeks ago, in bad weather on heavily traveled Interstate 95, Virginia State Trooper Robert Thomas noticed a woman driving her car with her left hand while applying mascara with her right hand and staring into the rearview mirror.

According to Thomas, the road was slick with rain and traffic was heavy in morning rush hour.

Thomas says he followed the woman for one and a half miles before pulling her over and all that time she was putting on mascara and "stretched forward," looking into the mirror.

After he stopped her, he questioned her.

"I asked her why she was putting on mascara in this nasty weather with heavy traffic, and she said she was running late for work," Thomas said.

Thomas gave her a ticket for reckless driving, a misdemeanor with a penalty of up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Which, in my book, means Thomas should get a statue built in his honor.

Naturally, the driver got herself a lawyer, went to court and said the whole case should be dismissed.

Her lawyer said there was no evidence the driver was engaging in any type of driving that could be called reckless since she wasn't speeding or weaving in and out of lanes.

Fairfax County Judge Jonathan C. Thacher disagreed and found the 40-year-old woman guilty of the lesser offense of improper driving and fined her $25.

"Put your makeup on at home," the judge said.

You would think the woman would be pleased at getting off so lightly, but she was not. She was furious.

"Putting on makeup is not any different from dialing a number on your cell phone, lighting a cigarette, changing radio stations or drinking a cup of coffee," she told a reporter for The Washington Post. "I don't understand why it is construed as reckless."

Her point seems to be that driving with one hand and looking at your eyelashes in the mirror for more than a mile on a rain-slick highway in rush hour is normal activity.

And, now that I think of it, she may have a point.

I travel the same highways she does, and I see behavior just as bad every day.

Just two weeks ago, I was stuck behind a jerk who seemed to be using a cell phone while driving. I could tell this because he was inattentive to driving conditions, leaving too big a gap between him and the car in front of him one moment and then charging ahead the next.

He also was seriously hunched over in his seat.

I finally managed to get around him, and as I passed him, I saw that he had a laptop computer propped up on his steering wheel and he was typing into it as he drove.

I am not making this up. I wish I were.

I must admit this is the first time I have seen that behavior. What I see every day is people reading while they are driving.

I am not talking about reading maps or reading directions from small pieces of paper.

Every day, I see people reading newspapers and books as they drive. This seems to be a point of honor around Washington, as if the drivers were saying, "We are so smart, we can drive and keep up on current affairs and literature at the same time."

Depending on which survey you believe, Washington has the worst or second worst traffic in the nation, but this does not prevent people from driving like idiots.

Just the opposite. They spend so much time stuck in traffic, they look for diversions.

Like getting in a little computer time or reading or putting on makeup or eating salads.

Yes, salads. Eating a burger while driving, well, OK, you can manage it. Drinking a soft drink, fine.

Eating a salad takes two hands, however. One to hold the bowl and one to fork the stuff into your mouth.

But because this a health-conscious age, some people would rather eat salads than burgers, and of course, this means eating them while driving.

The woman who got fined $25 for putting on mascara is appealing, by the way, which means her legal bills will probably be about a hundred times more than what her fine is.

But she does not care. She has a point to make, which is, apparently, that the freedom to be a jerk in America means the freedom to be a jerk in traffic.

As for me, I have no idea what the authorities will do to her if she loses her appeal, but I don't think lethal injection should be ruled out.


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2/26/98: Grow up, boys!
2/24/98: Go get 'em, Bill!
2/19/98: My 15 minutes
2/17/98: The manic-depressive presidency
2/12/98: Drip, Drip, Drip
2/10/98: Clinton tunes out the networks
2/5/98: The flight of the Beast: America's love-hate relationship with scandal
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1/29/98: What the president has going for him
1/27/98: Judgment call: how Americans view President Clinton
1/22/98: Bimbo eruptions past and present
1/20/98: Feeding the beast: Paula Jones gets the full O.J.
1/15/98: Let's get it over with: it's time to deal with Saddam, already
1/13/98: Sonny Bono is dead, let the good times roll
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12/16/97: All dressed up... (White House flack Mike McCurry speculates on his next career)

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.