As I was riding my motorcycle to a doctor’s appointment, I noticed the car in front of me weaving back and forth like a child on a bicycle. Giving the car a wide berth, I passed cautiously. As I drove past, I saw the problem – the driver, a woman a few years older than me, was steering with her elbows while using both hands to compose a text message on her cell phone. I almost dropped my sandwich.
An hour later and six miles away, I passed the same car in front of a busy shopping mall. I recognized it by the large sticker in the back window advertising the source of the driver’s education. Apparently this college didn’t require an IQ test for admission, because the car was weaving back and forth for the exact same reason. I have little doubt she was still working on the same message.
Over the past several years, distracted driving has gained a lot of notoriety, and for good reason. From cell phone usage to eating, reading, putting on makeup, and turning around to smack the kids, distractions have caused a lot of mayhem on our highways. But last year a woman driving through the Florida Keys took distracted driving to a whole new level. She raised the bar so high, it may never be touched again.
It seems this woman was on her way to visit her boyfriend in Key West. Apparently she was in a bit of a hurry, because in the haste of packing and putting on makeup, she forgot something that’s become much more important in the 21st century than it used to be – she forgot to shave her nether regions. You heard me right. And with little time to spare, she broke out a razor while driving her Thunderbird down the Overseas Highway.
No, she wasn’t stupid enough to do this while driving. Well, not technically. I mean, she was sitting behind the wheel with her foot on the gas, but the actual driving was being done by her ex-husband in the passenger seat. Let me say that again … her ex-husband in the passenger seat … while she was shaving her you-know-what to make it more presentable for her boyfriend. I’ll bet Jerry Springer was drooling over this one.
And I’m sure the ex-husband was completely focused on the road ahead. Uh huh. No distractions here. So I can’t begin to understand how he missed the SUV in front of them. Oh, he saw it just before impact. But when he tried to jam on the brakes he realized the pedal was on the other side of the car. And honestly, she couldn’t move her feet very fast with a razor in such a precarious position. I hope she was at least able to move the razor.
And here’s the best part. After she rear-ended an unsuspecting motorist, the most the investigating officer could do for that particular offense was cite her for reckless driving. Because apparently there is no law in the state of Florida that specifically prohibits shaving your privates while driving. Of course, she was also driving on a suspended license, having been convicted of driving under the influence one day earlier. Go figure.
Okay, so this story is a bit more risqué than most of my posts. But in the context of distracted driving, it can’t be completely ignored. I mean, I used to get onto my daughter all the time for sending text messages while driving. But after reading this one, I had to put things in perspective. There are, after all, varying degrees of stupid.
So far, thirty states have banned texting while driving, and eight states don’t allow drivers to use a handheld cell phone at all. These laws are backed by accident statistics and studies that suggest a driver using a cell phone is as dangerous as a drunk driver. I don’t think they did a study on shaving.
These studies involved drivers of varying experience levels behind the wheel of a simulator. Not surprisingly, the drivers were much more accident-prone while talking on a cell phone. But what is a bit of an eye-opener is that their reaction time didn’t return to normal for almost five minutes after the call ended. If that’s true, some drivers are never quite “sober.”
According to the researchers, the fact that one hand was occupied with a phone was inconsequential. But we only have a certain number of brain cells available at any point in time, and phone conversations tap into that resource pool. And as we’ve already seen, some pools aren’t all that deep to begin with.
The state of Ohio is considering a ban on texting while driving. Already the news blogs are buzzing with heated debate. I read them, not because they’ll have any influence on pending legislation. I mean seriously, politicians listening to their constituents? Get real. But these blogs are just plain funny, if not a little scary.
Invariably, someone will claim they’re especially gifted behind the wheel, that they can safely drive a car with no hands and with both eyes shut. According to them, the “real” problem is other drivers who are eating, putting on makeup, or talking to passengers. Oddly enough, nobody mentioned shaving.
And they have a point. Any distraction is unsafe. I think when we sit behind the wheel of a moving car, we have an obligation to focus on the task at hand with both hands on the wheel and our eyes on the road. Because it’s the only way we can dodge these idiots who are too busy typing to drive.
As I mentioned earlier, I ride a motorcycle. It changes the way you drive. You notice lots of little things you never noticed before, because your life may depend on it. I’ve always said riding safely means looking at every car around you and asking yourself, “What’s the dumbest thing that person could do right now?” You’d be surprised at how often those prophecies are fulfilled.
And I can honestly say that every time a car has drifted into my lane or started to pull out in front of me, the driver was chatting on a cell phone. Every single time. About half of those were hands-free, which makes me believe those studies were correct. Holding a phone isn’t the problem – it’s the lack of focus.
I don’t usually rant in my blogs – I save that for my wife and kids. But the underlying purpose of these articles is to share thoughts that can make life better, and few things can mess your day up quicker than being involved in an accident, especially one that could have been prevented.
I’m no different from most other people. I have a pretty high opinion of my driving ability, and I can safely do things behind the wheel that would lead a lesser man into the arms of disaster. Just ask me. But age has a way of making me realize it’s luck, not skill, that’s kept me out of trouble so far. And I know that could all change in an instant.
The point is, that’s true for all of us. It’s not good to go through life afraid of everything, but we do have to at least acknowledge the risks in the things we do. Otherwise, it’s only a matter of time before we fall victim to them.
Odds are most of us will go through life without ever being involved in a serious accident. But we can tip the scale by taking our focus off the road, and some things are more dangerous than others. So text if you must, but do the rest of us a favor – leave the razor at home.
Copyright 2011 – Dave Glardon