By on September 24, 2015

It’s the kind of thing that could only happen in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Or maybe it’s the kind of thing that could happen anywhere but which is most likely to happen in the ABQ: a bus driver rams a line of cars because he’s distracted. One of the victims of the crash sues the city, claiming that the driver was OMG DISTRACTED BY HIS CELLPHONE THE MOST EVIL DEVICE OF ALL TIME, THE TOUCHING OF WHICH WHILE OPERATING A MOTOR VEHICLE ALWAYS LEADS TO FATALITIES.

Well, distracted driving was the cause of this crash. But the distraction had nothing to do with texting.


“Burrito to blame for 2014 bus crash” is the headline, and I recommend that you read the link because it’s a masterclass in how to accomplish a lot in just a few words. Hemingway’s baby-shoes line had nothing on this Mike Springer guy. I’m serious: he’s a better writer than 98% of the people I read on any given day.

My favorite lines:

“The city declined to comment on the lawsuit. Its drivers are not allowed to eat or drink while driving, and officials said the driver has undergone training again.”

Insofar as I’ve written about second chances for bus drivers before, I kind of approve of this decision by the city to retain this valuable resource and to retrain him how not to eat a burrito while driving a city bus. And my feelings on this have been vindicated by the last line of the article:

“He has not been involved in an accident since the burrito incident.”

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69 Comments on “Sir, Put Down The Burrito...”


  • avatar
    dwford

    There’s a simple solution to distracted driving: the government needs to mandate a steering wheel interlock device. Make it so the steering wheel is connected to the gas pedal so if the steering wheel doesn’t sense both hands on the wheel, the engine doesn’t get gas.

    • 0 avatar
      cwallace

      If you want to kill manual transmissions once and for all, that would be the way to do it. (Also, untold numbers of drivers, pedestrians, animals, fixed inanimate objects, etc.)

      • 0 avatar
        dwford

        I knew I should have included the ::sarcasm:: at the end of my comment, but I wanted to see how long it would take for someone to assume it was a serious suggestion…

      • 0 avatar
        SunnyvaleCA

        Manual transmissions… You take your foot off the gas while upshifting anyway. Or do you do all your shifts bouncing off the rev limiter? As far as rev matching while downshifting, that would be a problem with older cars, but I’ve heard that these new fancy cars have auto-rev-matching feature that would take care of that problem (Why someone wants to drive a stick shift and miss out on doing their own rev matching is beyond me, though.)

    • 0 avatar
      Carzzi

      “[…]steering wheel doesn’t sense both hands on the wheel, the engine doesn’t get gas.”

      Also, when the burrito is avoided, the driver doesn’t get gas.

  • avatar

    Buses need Distronic-Plus yo…

  • avatar
    thelaine

    He’ll never run out of gas.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    ..and your point? Texting is ok whilst driving?
    More click-bait. Let’s get back to cars, gents..

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      Obviously this article is a brief social commentary on how we obsess about distracted driving regarding cellphones, but ignore the many other more common things people do in cars that take their eyes off the road – eating being one of them. The article points to the myopia society has on the cellphone issue, and the rampant hypocrisy of burrito chomping drivers complaining about the driver in the next car on their cellphone.

    • 0 avatar
      an innocent man

      Just like ‘arse’ I can’t take anyone seriously who uses ‘whilst.’

    • 0 avatar
      WhiskeyRiver

      Distracted driving wasn’t invented with the advent of the smart phone.

      My dad was an insurance adjuster in the late 50’s and early 60’s. He was always sharing tidbits from meetings he went to. Back in the day, most accidents involving distracted drivers were due to passengers. The next thing causing the most distracted driver accidents was the car radio. The heater controls caused a healthy percentage of accidents too. As did eating and drinking coffee while driving.

      In the late 60’s a friend crashed his ’67 GTO into a telephone pole looking at girls walking on a sidewalk wearing mini skirts.

      If we start making laws to outlaw everything that can distract a driver we’ll have one seat cars, no HVAC controls, no radio, no cup holders and no flat surfaces to set a burrito on.

      I don’t know what we can do about hot women walking around in public. I sure hope not a damn thing.

    • 0 avatar

      Soooo fahncy. I wonder, my good man, which Grey Poupon is best Grey Poupon.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “My, this burrito is tasty, but it is filling!”

    *throws burrito out window*

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    drop the chalupa?

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    I love how the driver isn’t to blame, the burrito is. Damn you sentient snack!

  • avatar
    dwford

    The driver retraining is particularly rich, both in that it was said with seriousness by the spokesman, but also that it was reported with seriousness in the article.

  • avatar
    etho1416

    Ugh. Is this site still claiming texting is not all that bad? This snarky post seems to point that way. I hope it’s not going down that libertarian “I can speed and text and not use blinkers because I’m such a great driver” road it did in the past.

    • 0 avatar
      Sobro

      This site is for open borders, isolationism, and distracted driving? Why was I not told this?

      As for the topic, I’d love to see the retraining films the bus driver had to sit through. I think one is entitled “Green sauce splattered in the streets”.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      The article does contain more than a bit of sloppy reasoning. At the same time, it isn’t wise to assume that a driver who ceases texting will become a model citizen.

      Distraction may be the symptom more than the cause. Some drivers may be more inclined to tune out than others, so they will actively seek out distractions because of their lack of interest in driving.

      At the same time, driver engagement is not necessarily the answer. The driver who replaces phone behaviors with more aggressive driving (which the University of Utah has found in one of its less reported simulator studies) is not necessarily a safer driver. Phone distraction may not be ideal, but it may be preferable to the alternative.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Well, Jack does have a very lofty opinion of his own driving prowess.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      “Texting” isn’t all that bad, according to … actual data, as far as I know.

      I mean, if you look at the NHTSA data, it doesn’t point out “texting” (or more accurately “using a phone”, since SMS as such is not the issue) as being The Scourge Of Our Age. Reactions to it smack more of moral panic than realistic response to an issue.

      (Also, you seem to confuse “libertarian” and “anarchist”. This is understandable due to overlap on the edges [Rothbard vs. Hayek], but not exactly *accurate*.

      Nozick, for instance, makes a detailed libertarian argument for *mandatory car insurance*, no matter how great a driver you think you are.

      Then again, blinkers aren’t for you – they’re for the guys around you, who can’t read your mind *no matter how good you are*.

      Speeding? Nobody takes speed limits seriously, *especially highway designers*, who argue for an 80% hit rate as the optimal, and note that people drive the speed they want, regardless of the limit.)

  • avatar
    -Nate

    “I don’t know what we can do about hot women walking around in public” .

    Before the lightning struck , I’d just pull over and talk to them .

    It’s not that hard and the worst they can do is be un interested .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    kosmo

    I remember discussing an eating-related accident as a youth with a group of people, and a friend’s mom said it was illegal to eat while driving where she grew up in Nebraska. Not sure if there is any truth to this (and it occurred in about 1972).

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      What can you hit in Nebraska in the 70’s? Grass?

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        As much as I usually rag on people who make jokes about “flyover country,” I will say that after you get west of Lincoln, there is absolutely NOTHING in Nebraska. I-90 in SD is a metropolis by comparison. Even someone like my dad, who loves wide-open spaces so much that he gets visibly uncomfortable in a Tokyo subway, goes a little stir crazy after driving on I-80 for more than a couple hours. “Prairie madness” might not be a clinical condition, but I’m sure it’s struck people just the same.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I need to go out west (via car), just to see. Furthest west I’ve been in life is Missouri, somewhere out past Branson.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Yes you do. But skip Nebraska. You need to visit the Rocky Mountain states (MT, WY, CO in that order), Arizona, and all three states on the West Coast. When you’re anywhere near Oregon or Washington I’ll take you out to dinner.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Why thank you. Maybe I’ll do that in the next couple years, in a nice rental Impala or something (V6, not the 2.4 ugh).

            Will be in AZ in October, but trapped at a conference for about 2.5 days, then in LA for a week.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Drive from Phoenix to LA if you can. Take I-17, get off at AZ179, take it to 89A, drive 89A from Sedona to Flagstaff, if you have time, take AZ180 to the Grand Canyon. If not, take I-40 to Barstow and then I-15 into LA. You’re Welcome.

            One of my favorite drives in the world is 89/89A from Sedona to Kanab, UT. So much glorious scenery. Most of it isn’t full of tourists either. Once you get north of Flagstaff, traffic really thins out.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I can’t! Plane ticket already purchased and is non-refundable. Also work is paying for it.

            CVG-PHX-LAX was cheaper than CVG-PHX. Amazing how that works.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            That sucks. Well then go to downtown Scottsdale and enjoy the scenery of a different variety. A Scottsdale 5 is a Midwest 9.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @Corey

            When is the conference in Oct?

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Scottsdale thing I can probably do, it’s a 20 minute drive looks like.

            @28

            It’s 17th-20th.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I was going to be in the region, but on the weekend of the 10th.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            @bball, I have noticed in ungodly hot cities (like Phoenix) people tend to wear very little clothing unless they have a business meeting to attend or something similar.

            Honestly IMHO Phoenix is an effrontery to God himself. 4 million plus people should not live in a place that damn hot.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            So close! I’m work work people the entire time, however. There are three of us attending.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            We used to live in Tucson, and 3/4 of the year my wife would be in a bathing suit at the pool when I got home from work. Now we have a kid and snow. I miss Tucson…

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            There’s a reason the Sun Belt was a backwater until air conditioning became cheap and universal.

        • 0 avatar
          friedclams

          I-80 is stupefying, but you can take U.S. 20 through the Sandhills, which is surreal and beautiful, especially in summer.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      kosmo, I was stationed in Nebraska in 1968, and actually had to get a Nebraska drivers license and Nebraska plates. It was illegal to eat, drink, read maps, mess with the radio, reach into the glovebox, or otherwise be distracted while driving in Nebraska.

      But everybody did it anyway. They also did drag-racing on the streets and roads, which was illegal, and used avgas and/or nitromethane injection on their hotrods on the streets. That was illegal too.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I’m on the receiving end of distracted driving on a daily basis, like anyone who spends significant time as a pedestrian in a large city. I probably have a near miss in a crosswalk 3x or 4x/week. I’d estimate the sources of the distraction, judged by staring at the offenders through the car glass, are distributed something like this:

    Phone 70%
    Animated conversation with passenger 15%
    Car controls 10%
    Makeup 5%
    Everything else (including burritos) almost never

    The phone really is the elephant in the room, at least among drivers in large cities.

  • avatar
    King of Eldorado

    Speaking of Albuquerque and distracted driving, get ready for at least a couple of rear-end accidents on I-25 north of downtown as drivers gawk at next month’s Balloon Fiesta mass ascensions.

    • 0 avatar
      Geekcarlover

      Locally, Gainesville Florida, it’s birds. Sandhill Cranes stop annually at the end of my street. $#@%& birdwatchers act like it’s the second coming of Christ. They stop, don’t really pull over, just stop and wander around taking pictures.(The people, not the birds. The avian visitors have enough sense to avoid traffic.)
      They are beautiful (louder than Metallica doing AC/DC covers), but beautiful. I wish the people could realize they are standing in the middle of the road while trying to get the perfect picture.

  • avatar
    doublechili

    I can see the driver retraining session now:

    “Before we begin, there are snacks in the back of the room that you may enjoy during the video.”

    BTW, the driving catch-22:

    If you see someone driving erratically and take a look when you pass them and see them texting/eating/shaving/applying makeup/etc, you are now also a distracted driver. ;)

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Take the cell phone. Leave the burrito.

  • avatar
    friedclams

    The unbelievably terse writing style of the original article is the best thing about all this.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      I’ve read/heard pieces about how small newspapers are farming out stories like this to freelancers located around the English speaking world as piece work so that the newspaper can reduce headcount while still covering local news. This one struck me as exactly that kind of reporting, done remotely by someone who has no access to the people involved, only facts available via the Internet.

  • avatar
    wrxtasy

    the single tag on the news article is:
    burrito
    Im done here

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    My first collision was veering slightly while fiddling with the heat and hitting a mailbox.

    Anything and everything can be a distraction… I do think cell phones have a deeper mental involvement, but sometimes it only takes a split second.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    ” What can you hit in Nebraska in the 70’s? Grass? ” .

    Well , there’s corn ~ hours and hours of it reach from horizon to horizon….

    Nebraska can be nice if you’re willing to get off the interstate .

    -Nate

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