Just a minor distraction? Yeah…

You hear a lot about “distracted driving” these days. When I had small children, that term poses a mental picture that remains clear even today. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination for a mother to recall the sight of three small boys scrapping over a toy or wailing that someone is taking more than their fair share of the seat.

That scenario is timeless, and, no doubt, it recurs daily in one car or another. However, the crux of the column in the wake of Mother’s Day, focuses on what the media considers be “distracted driving” today.

Ah, yes — the cell phone. Dangerous texting. Needless deaths. Young bodies sacrificed at the altar of “right now”. Nothing, it seems, is worth waiting for — least of all a message on one of these confounded wireless gadgets that rules lives today. I find it remarkable that we managed to exist for two hundred plus years without them.

But distractions are not limited to the cell phone. Imagine, if you will, an adult attempting to drive an automobile with (1) the radio on, (2) the GPS speaking directions, (3) a DVD player running a movie for the passengers, (4) the wail of a fast-approaching siren, and (5) On Star warning of a weather emergency and bad road conditions. Perhaps the only safe activity is watching the car park itself with “park assist”. At least the driver could safely answer the phone in that case.

Given the number of electronic accouterments in the new vehicles, it’s amazing that even more accidents do not occur. Every handy gadget in the new cars poses its own hazard. I don’t know about you, but this degree of multi-tasking is not for me!

All joking aside, isn’t it about time that good old personal responsibility returned to our lives. The thrill of freedom to a teenage with a new driver’s license is not new. We experienced it, but the danger we faced was taking a turn a bit too fast or getting in to a “drag race” with another teen. Those risks pale in the face of what novice drivers encounter today when they get behind the wheel.

There’s nothing more comforting in a dangerous situation that having a cell phone when you’re in trouble. The security in one’s ability to dial 911 for help cannot be underestimated. Thankfully, hoping to see a police car or being found Good Samaritan are not the only choices left to an injured or stranded driver. Let’s face it, when it comes to pay phones, Superman would be in a world of hurt today.

It wouldn’t be too comfy to return to the days of vent windows (loved them!) and radios and heaters as options, but I think for all we have gained, we have lost something, too. The old parent-child games of “Riddley Riddley Ree” and such are long gone. Now, I wonder if two-generational conservations are any more than “Where do we stop to eat?”

And if we could have a “governor” on the number of gadgets within a vehicle, what number would prove safe? One? Two? Three?

As with so many situations today, driving defies common sense. After all, when you are driving, driving should be your number one job. Next time you dodge an oncoming or adjacent car and the driver is in the midst of talking, eating, putting on makeup, or (God forbid) texting — and you will encounter them — drive defensively. You’re probably the only one who will be. Think about it.

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