Driven to Distraction

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Everyone knows that it’s not safe to text and drive. Most states have laws prohibiting such activity, and both TV and the internet are filled with PSAs regarding the dangers of texting while driving. Many states, Illinois included, also have restrictions on cell phones, usually limiting their use to handheld devices only.

However, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to distracted driving. Hands free or not, when I am talking on a cell phone while driving, I have been known to miss my turn or forget where I am going. I’m not sure why conversing by cell phone is harder on our concentration than talking to other passengers in the car. And cell phones aside, modern drivers do so many other things that are distracting.

Eating and drinking are activities that can interfere with safe driving. Have you ever tried to open your sandwich wrapper or the little gizmo on the top of your coffee cup while behind the wheel? I know people who eat soup and yogurt – with a spoon, no less! – while driving. Even the simple act of glancing down to eyeball your drink before picking it up can cause a fender bender – or worse.

I have seen people apply makeup, do their nails, put on and take off clothing, and even read a newspaper while driving. Surely these activities are at least as dangerous as using a cell phone while behind the wheel.

Then there are those small, yet significant, distractions called “children.” I wish I had a dollar for every time I yelled at explained to my kids that their fighting, whining, or shouting was going to get us in an accident. Many of us can remember car rides with our families, kids jammed in the back seat, Dad with one hand on the wheel and the other swatting or separating squabbling children. It’s a miracle we grew up at all.

Why do we insist on doing so many things in cars going anywhere from 30 to 70 miles an hour? Maybe it’s that our lives are so busy that we try to cram additional tasks into our commute. Or maybe we are so used to driving that we don’t recognize the dangers of distraction.

Many experts warn that our attempts to multitask are in vain. We can only really concentrate on one thing at a time. Sure, I can walk and chew gum at the same time – or drive and chat with my passengers. Beyond that, I think it’s safest if I keep my hands on the wheel, my eyes on the road, and my head in the game – of staying alive.

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5 thoughts on “Driven to Distraction

  1. Paul Infanger

    The most bizarre thing I ever saw driving was a guy playing guitar. He was holding the steering wheel with his knees and his left hand and guitar fret were out the driver’s side window. No law against that…

    Like

  2. Carolyn Rudolf

    These are really good insights, Mary. The cell phone distraction issue first had a huge impact on me about seven years ago at my son’s Operation Snowball parent program. The guest speakers were the parents of a U of I college student who was riding a bike and killed by a young driver who went off the road while texting. Talk about a teachable moment….. and not just for the students.

    Like

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