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.