Thursday, November 15, 2012

There is much jackassery afoot in the CEA!

There are certain laws of life we must always adhere to, and one of the most important is there will always be some jackass somewhere doing some kind of jackassery stuff, just to let the rest of the world know that jackasses exist.

Exhibit A is Michael Petricone, the senior vice president of government and regulatory affairs at the Consumer Electronics Association. 

Up until now, I figured the senior VP of the Consumer Electronics Association just went to state funerals for iPhones that mistakenly get dropped in toilets, but it appears he has an additional duty that requires the finest level of jackasseryness.

Just in time to make sure public perception of dead people doesn’t somehow affect holiday Christmas sales, Mike released a statement that disagrees with the National Transportation Safety Board and basically says it’s OK to drive and use a cell phone or other electronic device while driving, and these wonderful technologies actually make it safer to drive. Apparently he felt the need to say this – aside from the fact that we must have been low in jackassery comments since we aren’t seeing as many political posts on Facebook since the election – because the NTSB released its Top 10 Most Wanted Safety Improvements List.

Here’s No. 2 on their list of things they want improved for safety reasons: “OPERATOR DISTRACTIONS: States and regulators should ban nonessential use of cell phones and other distracting devices by operators of cars, trucks, buses, planes, trains and vessels. Companies should develop and vigorously enforce policies to eliminate distractions to their operators. Device manufacturers should assist by developing technology that disables devices when they're within reach of operators.”

Seems simple enough, considering the thousands of people who are killed every year because drivers were using a cell phone or other electronic device – people like my son, Devin, who was killed Aug. 7, 2011, while biking home from work. 

After NTSB released their list, Petricone must have sat in his office and said, “Egad! Here’s a chance to be a jackass! I work for the Consumer Electronics Association! Surely there is an app for that!” 

He then released this statement: “CEA shares the NTSB’s desire to increase automotive safety and help save lives by reducing distracted driving. That is why we support common-sense measures like state legislation banning texting while driving and placing strict limits on the use of electronics by novice drivers. Unfortunately, in today’s update to its ‘Most Wanted List,’ the NTSB misses the mark on the use of portable electronics in the vehicle. By calling for an 'abstinence-only' approach, the NTSB ignores established realities of human behavior, as well as the fact that in-vehicle technology — when used correctly — can make for vastly safer roadways.

“Rather than calling for broad regulations or outright bans, policymakers should encourage the use of the many innovative driver safety technologies coming on to the marketplace. Indeed, earlier this year, CEA forwarded the NTSB a list of third-party applications that promote safe use of portable technologies in the automobile. We look forward to working with the NTSB to enhance safety without inadvertently prohibiting or discouraging the use of innovative in-vehicle technologies.”

And that, my friends, tops the list of jackassery for today, with a dollop of douchbaggeryness to boot.

Keep in mind, Mikey doesn’t quote any studies to back up his claim that there are safer ways to do this. That's because THERE ARE NO SAFE WAYS TO USE THESE DEVICES.  He certainly shies away from the more than 30 studies done by private industry and government scientists that show driving with a cell phone – even a hands-free device – quadruples your chances of crashing and killing yourself or someone else – someone like my son, Devin, who was killed Aug. 7, 2011, by a driver on a cell phone. Oh, did I already say that once before? If you are texting and driving, you increase your chances 23X of crashing and killing someone – someone like Heather Hurd who was killed by a trucker texting his location to his trucking company.

He would have you believe it isn’t the device that kills people – it’s people using the device that kill people. Well, that’s true … but they would not kill people if they weren't using the device!  The evidence is in – driving with a cell phone is a lot different than driving and changing a radio station. Driving and using a cell phone, or an iPhone lowers your cognitive ability by 37 percent. And, oh, by the way, the driver who killed my son, claimed the phone was plugged into the radio to make it a hands-free device, which proves that kind of technology did not work.

I'm sure Mike could share his views with my son, but then he’d have to visit his gravesite in Kenosha, Wis.

So Mike, in all due respect, you can take your line of crap and kiss my ass. On second thought, I mean you no respect when I tell you to kiss my ass. The way you talk, you are not worthy of my respect.

You, sir, are a jackass, and your comment was just a little too much jackasseryness than this world needed.

If you agree, by all means, feel free to not let this jackassery stand. You can call or e-mail the CEA and let them know:

Tel: 703-907-7650
Fax: 703-907-7690

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The image is horrifying so we should never forget

This is the picture. It's the one I see in my mind when I really don’t want to, the one that will always be there and never go away.

It’s the car the driver drove, while talking on her cell phone, that hit my son, who was pedaling his bicycle home from work, that amputated his leg and killed him.

His name is Devin.

I’m not really sure how long he lived after he was hit, as the driver kept driving with him on the car for 800 feet and didn’t stop for three-quarters of a mile, and didn’t call 911 until … when? 

According to her police statement, she was on the phone. Her phone records show there were three calls to or from her boyfriend at 12:34 a.m., 12:35 a.m. and 12:45 a.m. She told police the crash happened shortly after the first phone call. She said she heard someone say, “Hello,” then she closed her eyes for a long blink and heard a bang.

If the crash happened shortly after the first phone call, that means it happened after 12:34 a.m. but before 12:35 a.m. The last phone call at 12:45 a.m. lasted one minute and nine seconds, and then she made the 911 call.

Did Devin lay dying in the road for 11 minutes before she finished the third call and then called 911?

Why do I think about this stuff?

This is the car that hit my son and killed him. I don’t have to point out the passenger side is crushed in, do I?

Dear God, why do I recreate this moment in my mind?

He’s pedaling down the road of Highway H after leaving work at the Renaissance Faire. He was in a well-lit area, with light from two factories pouring onto the road. The accident reconstruction said the driver should have had 4.7 seconds to see him, react and avoid the collision. But she’s on the phone, dear God, and she’s closing her eyes! I want to be there. I want to scream at her: “Open your eyes and drive! Hang up and drive! Look at the road in front of you!”

Devin is pedaling, oblivious to his pending death, unaware he only has seconds or minutes to live. No idea his life ends at age 21.

Why does she not see him?!?!? Why does she not stop???? 

4.7 seconds.

She hears someone say hello.

She closes her eyes.

One second ... two seconds ...

He’s pedaling.

Three seconds ...

The headlights blind him. 

Four seconds ...

There is nowhere to go.

She hits him. Dear God, she hits him. 

Terror explodes in his brain as the fender makes contact with the bike and it begins to crumple. His leg is torn from his body. Does he feel it?

He hits the hood. He’s thinking, “What the hell … ”

She doesn’t stop. She keeps driving. Oh God, the blood. He’s slammed into the windshield. His back is broken. His arm is mangled. His neck is snapped. Look at the dent in the roof! She keeps driving. He finally falls off after 800 feet. She keeps driving! She doesn't hit the brakes. She doesn’t stop until she comes to the intersection of Highway H and 165 three-quarters of a mile away.

And she finally calls 911 at the same exact time two of Devin’s friends drive up and see his body. They know it is their friend, and a moment later another driver sees Devin's shoe, and the bike, and this driver knows something is wrong, something is terribly wrong, and this driver slows down and she calls 911, too.

And the driver, now that she has stopped, she calls 911 at the same time.

Within minutes there are paramedics and cops and they talk to the driver. The paramedic picks up Devin’s back pack, lying in a ditch, parallel to her car. If she hit him three-quarters of a mile away, how in the hell did the back pack end up there?

So many questions, so many fucking questions.

The paramedic finally realizes there is a human being lying in the road. His name is Devin.

And now he’s dead.

Look at the car. 

Now tell me you can drive safely while talking on a cell phone.

How many more people have to die? How many more people have to cry? How many more people are left to plaintively ask, “Why? Why? Why?”

Please, in honor of my son, share this story on your Facebook page. E-mail it to your friends. Post it on your refrigerator. Read it to your kids before you give them the car keys. And when you are in your car and your phone rings, just leave it alone.

In honor of my son, save a life. Hang up and drive.

His name was Devin.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Dear God, people, hang up your damn phones and save a life!

Thirteen months and 23 days after my son was killed, I sat across the table from a GEICO employee who wanted to hear about Devin.

I didn't plan to cry. But I didn't plan on my son getting killed by a driver on a cell phone on Aug. 7, 2011, while riding his bicycle home from work, either.

We already lived through months of agonizing preparation for a criminal trial on negligent homicide, only to see the D.A. drop the charges and instead issue a ticket for inattentive driving. The 18-year-old driver paid a fine of $100. But now -- finally -- it seemed, GEICO wanted to do the right thing. This isn't about money for us. It's never been about money. It's certainly not about hitting the one-armed bandit jackpot. It was simply about the principle of respecting human life, and paying what they were accountable to pay, so we could find a way to honor Devin and use that money to save other lives. It was just so someone on the other side of this would say, "Yes, human life matters."

This is what human life looks like:

Devin and his friend, Annie Moore-Richter.

Devin and I at the Motley Crue concert.

And what photos do we have left to take now? Photos like this:

Does it really need a caption?

 That is the face -- and the gravestone -- of distracted driving.

I'd trade every penny they offered and every nickel in my bank account to reverse time so we weren't in this position, just so I didn't have to go over the collision everyday in my head, or remember the gut-wrenching wail my wife made when I called her on the phone to give her the news.

The tears poured down my face as I told GEICO about Devin and how he talked three people out of committing suicide. I talked about the Devin who loved animals and helping people that others would just ignore. I talked about the Devin who was going to school and wanted a degree in criminal justice. And I talked about the Devin who was watching our dogs for us that night, and was pedaling home to take care of them, when he was hit from behind, and the driver kept going.

She could have stopped. Most people do when they hit a squirrel that darts in the street. But she carried Devin on her car for 800 feet before he fell off. The police took fibers from his shirt out of the windshield. She didn't hit the brakes and she didn't stop for three-quarters of a mile. In addition to myriad other injuries, she amputated his left leg and foot.

And so here we were 13 months and 23 days later and GEICO indicated they wanted to do the right thing. They said they would when they called us a day after the accident. And now, we could use that money to do something big in Devin's name for the rest of our lives, so we could save lives. If we can use that money to change minds, change laws and get people to hang up their cell phones while driving, then maybe his death would not be in vain.  Maybe, finally, after initially offering us $50,000 for our troubles, they would see that.

But let's be honest. Cute, animated lizards that cost millions of dollars to make and advertise aside, GEICO is a business. They don't care about me. They don't care about my tears. They don't care about my family's pain as we relive this everyday in our heads.

"We are sorry," the GEICO employee said.

Then they came back and said, "No, we weren't really interested in settling at all." Even though they asked for the mediation so it wouldn't go to trial, it was just another game, another chance to rip off scabs, another big letdown.

That means we have to go forward with a lawsuit, put one foot in front of the other, and continue taking one breath, one step, one moment at a time. While they will go forward to look after their bottom line and not paying the insurance the driver paid for, they will also have to indefensibly defend distracted driving, while most insurance companies, many politicians and everyday people are starting to see it more clearly all the time. You don't have to take my word for it. You only need to go to, or . Or I could just save you the trouble. Thousands have died due to distracted driving -- people using cell phones to talk or text, or people changing songs on iPhones. People like Devin, Heather, Brian and Owen, and so many more. Drivers on cell phones -- even hands-free devices -- are 4X more likely to be in an accident within five minutes of making or taking a call. Texters are 23X more likely. People with a .08 blood alcohol level drive better than cell phone drivers. There are more than 30 tests to back it up, and thousands of deaths to drive home the point. Yet we still see people everyday driving on small roads and interstates with a phone stuck to their ear. You can usually tell because they are driving slower than everyone else, or they are swerving. They think they can do it better than everyone else. They can't. And it's only a matter of time before they kill themselves or someone else.

I know there are some who will try to justify what has happened. The defense attorney was pretty good at coming up with half-truths, outright lies and exaggerations. But the facts speak for themselves:

- The road was not dark and foggy like the defense attorney said. Three cops, a paramedic and a civilian who drove up and saw my son's shoe in the road before calling 911 said there was no fog.
- He was in a well-lit area, bathed in light from factories on both sides.
- She told police she was on the phone when the crash happened. She said she heard someone say, "Hello," she took a long blink, then heard a bang.
- Because there were no brakes, there were no skid marks, so there was no way to determine her exact speed. She said 35 mph, but the coroner said it was a high-speed impact of about 50 mph.
- She told police she was blind in her left eye and not wearing her prescription glasses, which her boyfriend said she had to wear all the time.
- She told police she had three phone calls that night and the crash happened shortly after the first call. She had phone calls at 12:34 a.m., 12:35 a.m., and 12:45 a.m. She called 911 at 12:46 a.m.
- And finally, the state accident reconstruction report said she should have realistically had 4.7 seconds to see Devin and avoid the accident. Most cell phone studies say people who use cell phones while driving tend to look down for 4 to 5 seconds.

I'm not telling you this to damn the driver. I've been praying and trying to forgive her. God knows I have. I'm telling you this because I don't want anyone to make excuses or try to justify driving with a cell phone. Make no mistake: A driver on a cell phone killed my son.

I pray and look forward to the day she will reach out to us and apologize, and maybe even join our cause so we can save lives together. 

So let GEICO do what it thinks it must do. We will do what we must do. We will go forward. We will tell Devin's story again and again. We will cry again and again so others don't have to. We will talk to politicans, schools and civic groups. We will change minds. We will save lives. This is how it starts:

Door magnet

Bumper sticker
Bumper sticker 2.
How does it end? You write the end of the story. Devin is dead. He's never coming back. I would hate for any family to live through our ordeal. I would hate for any driver to have to live with this. Don't wait until you see the bumper stickers. For Devin, Brian, Heather, Owen and so many other families who have lost loved ones, do the right thing. For the love of God almighty, please save a life. Hang up your damn phone and drive.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hairspray, cholesterol and terrorism

Extra underwear because my mother always told me to pack more than I need?


Cholesterol medication in case I accidentally ingest chicken fried steak for breakfast instead of oatmeal every day?


Hairspray and shaving cream?

Check ... but not in my carry on luggage.

I'm a pretty good traveler, so I felt pretty stupid when going on vacation last year that I was "that" guy. You know, the one stopped by border patrol agents between the gift shops and the airline gates. Apparently, the x-rays of my carry on luggage alerted agents to my toiletries, and they were having none of that on this particular flight.

I was given the option of going back to check-in, to send my Edge shaving cream and hairspray through with that luggage, or throwing it away. I threw it away.

While I am sure this is shocking to some of you, it is true I sometimes use hairspray to keep my honey-blond locks in place. But it's also shocking to me that I still can't bring this crap on an airplane. So, for this trip to Detroit later today, I made sure it was in the right bag.

I know we have to be careful of terrorists, even the well-groomed ones. I would not want a scene like this unfolding:

Terrorist: (standing up and shouting): Ladies and gentlemen! I have a can of hairspray and I'm not afraid to use it!!!!!

Flight attendant: Eek! Some hairspray! What do you plan on doing with it?!?!?

Terrorist: Well, first I plan on volumizing my hair, like the label says, all the while releasing chlorofluorocarbons in the air, thereby contributing to global warming and making the temperature rise about three degrees over the next 50 years and maybe changing the geography of California a bit.

Flight attendant: What are your demands?

Terrorist: A bag of peanuts instead of these crappy pretzels!

Flight attendant: But sir ... your cholesterol ...

Terrorist: Screw the cholesterol! I brought my Lipitor!

Flight attendant: You do realize this could be an empty threat if, 20 years from now, scientists determine global warming isn't man-made or we come up with a solution!

Terrorist: Don't make me spray this can! Fox News says global warming studies are inconclusive! You will rue the day I did not get my peanuts!

Go on. Start ruing.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Filling my desk with minty fresh goodness

For reasons totally unbeknownst to me, I have two tubes of toothpaste in my top desk drawer.

One I could understand and easily explain.

Two? That seems a bit excessive.

One is your basic Colgate and promises "Cavity protection," and, "Great, Regular Flavor." The other is Colgate Total with mint stripe and promises to PREVENT cavities. That's a pretty bold statement. It's like the Navy SEALS of tooth defense, while the regular stuff is like Mall Cop Protection. Not only that, but the Total stuff also prevents plaque and gingivitis, not to be confused with Newt Gingrich. Though, now that I think about it, I'd pay extra for a toothpaste that prevents Newt Gingrich.

While we're on the topic, plaque prevention shouldn't be confused with, you know, plaque prevention. Back in my Air Force days you could always tell the high-speed, super troops by their collection of "I Love Me" awards on the wall, as opposed to those who were never good enough to get awards. Turns out, maybe the other group without awards just brushed with plaque prevention toothpaste.

Anywho, I guess it should make my dentist, Pete, happy that I care so deeply about my dental hygiene that I keep two tubes of toothpaste in my desk drawer (yes, I even wrote a blog about Pete), but it still makes me wonder what I was thinking. Was I feeling humble and low-key the day I bought the regular stuff, and all uppity and thinking I was special when I bought the Total package toothpaste for the Total Package Gary?

And who dreamed up the name "Regular Flavor" for the plain, old Colgate? There is no such flavor known to man as "Regular." Someone in their marketing department was clearly not paying attention when they were throwing out names for that toothpaste. Makes me think of the people sitting in first class on the airplane, all smug with their free drink and bag of pretzels while the flight attendant says, "No, Mr. Kunich ... you're back here ... in the regular seats ... "

This whole thing probably puts Colgate in a marketing quandary. When you have regular-flavored toothpaste, the only thing you can possibly do is come out with a better tasting paste and a label that says, "New and improved flavor!" But then, does Colgate want to advertise a better flavor? Isn't that just admitting the regular flavor was crap? Nobody wants to think they are brushing their teeth with crap.

As it turns out, maybe crap is better than the other stuff because the regular Colgate actually has 0.76 percent monofluorophosphate with 0.15 percent fluoride ion, while the Total has only .024 percent sodium fluoride and 0.14 percent fluoride ion. However, the Total also has 0.30 percent Triclosan, which might be the scientific word for "mint stripe." It just sounds to me like the regular stuff has more stuff in it, which could probably be double-checked with a Google search, but I don't feel like putting that much effort into this blog post.

I realize there is a fine line here. You gotta make the toothpaste taste OK, especially if you're dealing with kids. In my day, we were happy with the Aim. Nowadays, the kids need all the crazy flavors like orange and cinnamon and bubblegum, which only causes stupid kids to start eating and chewing the toothpaste like it's some kind of goofy snack. Look, dental floss is supposed to taste like cinnamon, and toothpaste is supposed to taste like regular, and that's the way Colgate designed it ... unless of course you want your toothpaste to taste like a McDonald's Shamrock Shake, and then you get the highfalutin stuff with the mint stripe.

I still don't know why the hell I have two tubes of toothpaste in my desk drawer.