Ohhh! Is That My Cell Phone Ringing?

This week in the newspaper there was an article about a recent survey of teens and distracted driving.  As I recall, 100% of them acknowleged that being distracted increases your risk for a crash, then an incredible percentage of them acknowledged doing all those things anyway.  You might be tempted to ascribe this to their little mushy, unformed, hormone-infested brains, but as far as I can tell, adults aren’t too much any better.  I think that proves that humans of all ages have mushy, unformed, and hormone-infested brains, which only first manifest themselves during the teen years. 

So according to the U.S Department of Transportation at distraction.gov, there are three forms of distraction–visual (taking your eyes off the road), manual (taking your hands off the wheel), and cognitive (taking your mind off what you’re doing).  I’m a fairly cautious person, but I regularly engage in all three of these on a daily basis. 

First, taking your eyes off the road.  In my relatively new Baby Toyota,  all the dashboard controls are in the middle of the dash.  If you need to glance at something (i.e., speed), or change a setting (heat/AC, or radio station), it’s all in the same place, so you don’t have to visit TWO places on the dash with your eyes.  Glancing at the instruments is not a problem for me.  I don’t care how fast I’m going or how much gas I have while I’m driving.  Heat and AC setting likewise.  I can wait until I come to a stop to adjust those.  The radio is my downfall.  I consider it torture to have to listen to economic statistics on NPR news or, alternatively, to Abba.  So I’m making a new rule for myself:  suck it up and endure the torture until you stop. 

Manual.  This one is a little tricky, and I can’t be faulted for it, since forever and ever, I’ve driven a manual transmission vehicle, which regularly calls for taking your right hand off the wheel to change gears.  I’m so accustomed to steering with one hand during the seconds that takes, that I think I can also take that hand off the wheel to change the above-mentioned settings, via the Braille method.  As it turns out, I just can’t.  I have to look too.  So in terms of degree of danger, taking your hand off the wheel is inferior to taking your eyes off the road, unless you’re talking about both hands. 

Cognitive.  What can I say?  That’s the story of my life.  My mind is almost always on something else.  Looking forward or reviewing.  Perhaps the best drivers are Zen-ish and are always in the moment. 

Distraction.com gives examples of distracted driving, including: 

  • Using a cell phone.  I don’t do this.  Driving a manual transmission takes both hands and both feet, so I don’t have any appendages left.  Hands-free technology holds no attraction for me either.  I don’t really want to talk to you while I’m in my car.  Chances are, I don’t want to talk to you at all.  Plus, it really would distract me.  I would have to think, and I’m using up all my distraction points to keep from listening to Three Dog Night on the radio. 
  • Eating and drinking.  I’m not into eating in the car and dribbling mustard on my chest.  Drinking…too hard to get the cap off the water bottle.  I don’t have a problem eating and drinking in YOUR car, as long as you’re driving and aren’t eating or drinking yourself.  Sorry about those mustard stains on the seat. 
  • Talking to passengers.  That I do, but I can talk out of the side of my mouth.  As impolite as it may seem, I don’t have to look at you while I’m talking. 
  • Grooming.  This is my favorite.  I do put on lipstick in the car, but only at traffic lights.  Other grooming activities I can think of require too much time and mostly have to be done naked.  Pity that cars have windows. 
  • Reading.  I do this too, but also only at traffic lights. SOME traffic lights.  Some will hardly give me time to open the book, so I don’t bother.  Others, it depends on when you get there.  If the light just turned yellow and you have to stop, you’ve got a while.  But not enough for serious grooming activity. 
  • Using a PDA or navigation system.  Whew!  I can cross those off the list–don’t have either. 
  • Watching a video.  What?  There are people doing this?  Like God forbid you should miss the last few minutes of Die Hard 15. 
  • Changing the radio station, CD, or MP3 player.  Oops.   
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9 responses to “Ohhh! Is That My Cell Phone Ringing?

  1. Way back when dirt was young, I took Driver’s Ed. After school. I took it after school because I didn’t have a free hour during school for anything at all.

    The instructor told us that our group, the ones who didn’t have a free hour during school, were likely to be the least capable drivers based upon how many of us were still living by the end of our senior year.

    The problem? We were the group who were not devoting our attention to the task at hand. We were thinking about that Latin test next Tuesday, or the physics lab results to write up, or the essay on King Lear for English IV. Our fellow Driver’s Ed students, those who had a slot during the school day free, meanwhile PAID ATTENTION and lived.

    In the way of statistics, this one didn’t pan out for our little group of students relative to our peers, but it’s nice to know that my tax dollars have managed to bring this phenomenon to the government’s attention.

  2. it’s not Osama most Americans should fear, but the distracted drivers around them who’ve kill more Americans that terrorists can hope to dream about.

    Did you catch the news clip that since red light cameras went up, a survey of the Monroe and Tennessee street intersection during a 90-minute period revealed not a single red light runner? Cameras work!

  3. Fakesister: I can’t remember what time of day I took Driver’s Ed! What I do vividly remember is learning in a car with a manual transmission, with the gear shift (three gears!) on the steering column. The instructor said we were learning to drive with this vehicle even though most vehicles had automatic transmissions, because what if there was an emergency and a manual transmission vehicle was the only one available? As if manual transmissions were going the way of the dinosaur. Hello? Most importantly, in the tax dollar arena, you gotta love that there is a website called distraction.gov.
    Spencercourt: I’m not sure about the statistics at Tennessee and Monroe before the cameras…but anybody who does it is suicidal.

  4. Traffic cameras are interesting. Most of the ones around here have been removed. Not relocated to more needy intersections, removed. Why would such a useful tool be removed you ask? They don’t pay for themselves.

    Each camera must catch some number of violations per day to pay for it’s power and maintenance and the cost of pursuing the folks running the light. It’s not a small number and even the busiest intersections with the traffic signals most often ignored were not paying for themselves.

    They did change behavior at my own personal no-longer-camera’d intersection. Before cameras, it was routinely blocked by idiots turning left, stacking across the lanes so that when the lights went green there was nowhere to go. (One thinks it was paying for itself then.)

    This intersection now runs smoothly even during the heights of rush hour. I have to wonder how long that situation will remain with the possible consequences removed with the cameras.

    • > They don’t pay for themselves.

      I wonder if your your City Commissioners will apply that same logic to all government activity.

      Does the library pay for itself? The parks? How about police?

      How much are lives saved from reduced red light runnnig worth?

  5. I’ve read a lot about camera installation and removal, and IMHO, removal is not based on cost, even if that’s the stated reason. It’s based on public outcry. The Big Brother theory. Like people insist on being caught by a live person. I was recently almost killed by a beer truck running a red light, and he claimed he never even saw the light, which actually, I believe. I know this because I chased him down and parked behind him and called the police 🙂 And there is a camera at the intersection where he ran the light! But at that time, it was not activated. It only plays in real time, and it was, at that time, illegal to record it. So the police officer said…nothing we can do…we have to see it in person.
    I am somewhat amused by finding out that my friend spencercourt believes some good comes from laws 🙂 Libraries and parks do pay for themselves if you take a broad view, libraries in particular. Libraries allow people to be more educated, and the more educated you are, the less likely you are to break into someone’s house and steal the TV. And shoot you, if you happen to be home at the time. That’s why it always slays me when people say” Why should my taxes support education…I don’t have kids.” That is not the point.

    • We’ve been through this discussion before, so I won’t rehash what I’ve said before on libraries, schools, etc.

      > some good comes from laws

      I much prefer to administer my own justice rather than rely on laws. If I think I can do so, I will. I am already a vigilante on the roads, and plan to share my guerilla tactics against highway imperialists soon.

      And I pity the fool that breaks into my house….

  6. Its amazing to me that I have actually lived long enough to have developed safe driving habits. I say that with all sincerity, for my fist 15 years of driving I thought the road belonged to me, all others were interlopers and deserved whatever misfortune might result from my own impatience. When I think of the days before seat belts requirements for kids I shiver upon reflection of my own neglect and negligence. I recall driving in Tallahassee so under the influence I should have been horsewhipped.

    Age, common sense and self awareness have prevailed to make me a designated driver for family travels.

    I notice that you have omitted smoking from the list, I have long believed that smoking is just as hazardous as alcohol but it just isn’t as “politically correct” to target smokers. I would like to see a study on the % of MADD who are smokers. lol. I remember some now hilarious escapades with burning ashes and automobiles, ashes that dropped in my lap, underneath my butt,on the floorboard or in the seat, creating road hazards of cataclysmic proportions.

    Anyhow, there are some people that can’t walk that are permitted to drive, (and I am not referring to physical handicaps), but medicated folks or just plain mindless robots.

    So as they say in Rome, carrus emptor

  7. pt…not politcally correct to target smokers? It’s the most politically correct thing you can do these days, but I guess the connection between smoking and impaired driving has not yet been made 🙂 Perhaps you could alert http://www.distraction.gov.
    Otherwise, I get your point. It’s amazing that most of us survived the immortality of our youth.

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