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Driving, not texting, should be high priority

His deep, gruff voice rings in my ears’ memory without much effort.

“Get in the right lane and prepare to exit,” gruffed Coach Fortenberry, the man with enough intestinal fortitude to climb into the passenger seat with a bunch of teenagers.

After nervously checking the side and rearview mirrors, the steering wheel was turned and the turn signal applied.

Before the second flash of the blinker, the admonitions were flying.

“Don’t signal after you’ve already started your turn. You need to let people around you know what you’re planning on doing, not what you’ve already started doing. Signal first, then turn.”

It made sense once the embarrassment of being called out in front of other summer driver’s education students had passed.

His words stuck, hard into my brain.

They come back on the streets of Natchez, where it seems the turn signal has become as obsolete as an in-dash 8-track player.

Clearly, he had more patience than I do. I regularly “talk” to other drivers as they dart in an out of traffic.

“Nice signal, lady.”

“Wish I knew you were turning, my friend.”

“A signal would be nice, fella!”

Don’t worry; it’s all good-natured conversations, no road rage tendencies here.

Besides, driving the roads of Natchez has always been a bit humorous.

All of us always seem to be in such a hurry, but for most folks our destinations are never very far away and rarely is there even a hint of traffic.

Most of us would probably freak out if we had a two-hour commute in the kind of heavy traffic that’s common in large cities.

So it’s slightly funny to see Natchez residents stressing about the “rough and tumble” streets of Natchez.

Hurriedly changing lanes in an attempt to shave off 10 seconds on the trip to Natchez Market or Sports Center simply isn’t necessary.

Few, if anyone, it seems manage to flip the turn signal prior to changing lanes or turning.

From teenagers to law enforcement officers, it seems to be an epidemic these days.

Interestingly, one thing we apparently can do — despite the clear dangers — is carry on text conversations with one another while driving.

At least three or four times a week, it seems, a nearby driver swerves from lane to lane on my short commute to and from work.

Almost without fail, close inspection yields the cause — the phone clutched in one hand.

That’s scarier than a car that changes lanes with no warning.

At least, one hopes, the car moving deliberately, with no turn signal is being driven with a purpose.

The car manned by a texter is simply floating along the road, going wherever momentum and the grade of the road takes it.

Last week, as one of these aimlessly weaving torpedoes nearly clipped me; I couldn’t help but think that the world needs a few more Coach Fortenberrys.

I can only imagine what he’d say.

“Put that phone down, put both hands on the wheel and pay attention to what you’re doing. You could kill someone if you aren’t careful.”


Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.