By John Schlageck, Kansas Farm Bureau

Self-absorbed. It’s all about me. I am the center of the universe.

All these words come to mind when I see today’s endless stream of motorists talking, Tweeting, Snapchatting and Face-booking while speeding down the boulevard. This recent phenomenon has become an epidemic and it’s spreading.

Harsh words?

Certainly, but there are also harsh consequences in lives lost, maimed and injured permanently in traffic accidents caused by those who place their own need to continually use their phone instead of focusing on the task at hand – driving safely and consciously.

The National Safety Council reports cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year. Nearly 390,000 injuries occur each year from accidents caused by texting while driving.

One out of every four car accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving with some sort of phone in their mitts. The other holds a mascara brush, a hamburger, a liter of water or a book while they steer with their knees.

Nearly everyone agrees texting and driving is dangerous. Most people do it anyway. In a new survey, 98 percent of motorists who own cellphones and text regularly said they were aware of the dangers, yet three-quarters of them admitted to texting while driving, despite laws against it in some states.

Whatever happened to the conscientious and courteous driver of yesteryear?

How many motorists today continually scan the road and sidewalks in front of them for kids biking or walking down the sidewalk?

How about a watchful eye for the elderly couple out for an early morning stroll?

Or someone else walking his or her dog?

Such conduct while driving today has become the exception rather than the rule. Did I mention before that driving today is all about me getting where I need to go?

What we need on our streets and highways today are motorists with the intelligence to understand that driving a car, pickup, motorcycle, bus, van, SUV or anything you crawl behind the wheel and drive requires your undivided attention.
This means no phone calls, no meals, no makeup. Just drive.

There’s never a phone in my car located where I can pick it up while I’m driving. Don’t need one. Don’t want one.
My car functions the way it was intended without one. Anyway, I need to be ever vigilant looking out for all those motorists who are doing everything else in their cars but driving.

Used to be one of the last bastions of individual freedom was cruising in your car with the windows down, the radio playing your favorite song and the wind whistling through your hair. Every so often, you’d raise your index finger to signal, “Hey” to an upcoming motorist who’d reply in kind.

Doesn’t happen much today. Still I can dream can’t I?

But not behind the wheel – that’s where I drive.

John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.