Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

Local News

June 28, 2014

Opinion: The many distractions while driving

EFFINGHAM — Of course it was a hot, humid day when the air conditioner in Mary Ellen’s car decided to go on the fritz. That’s one of Murphy’s many laws, right? It wouldn’t matter if the air conditioner went out in December — assuming we were traveling in Illinois.

When something like that happens, it makes one realize how fortunate (spoiled?) we are to be living in a time when luxuries, such as air conditioning, are commonplace. We take it for granted that we are going to be comfortable all the time. Why, I remember when I was a kid and we didn’t have . . . .

If you are expecting this to be another little homily on gratitude and appreciation for the little things in life, well, you’re wrong. I have been a bit distracted lately. Specifically, I have been distracted by distracted driving.

You know, it’s real difficult to eat a large lemon ice cream cone when the temps are in the low 90s and the heat index is even higher. And it’s just really difficult to eat said cone while driving in a vehicle with no air conditioning. I mean, really, how is a person supposed to drive while rivulets of lemon ice cream are cascading down one’s arm and onto one’s lap?

My friend, Mary Ellen, said I should have gotten the ice cream in a cup. Yeah, that would have been a better option — using a spoon and eating out of a cup while driving! The best option would have been to stay at Tastee Treat and eat the ice cream while seated at a picnic table. What the hell were we thinking?

To be honest, I shouldn’t have been driving and trying to eat that dripping cone at the same time. My full concentration was not on the road, nor on traffic. I was more concerned and obsessed with getting that ice cream in my mouth and not on my clothing or the upholstery. And I said as much to Mary Ellen.

And people shouldn’t use cellphones or text while driving?

The entire incident got me to thinking about distracted driving in general. While we probably should have laws for the use of some things, there is no end to the many ways that people are distracted while operating a motor vehicle. Can we legislate every possible scenario? Can we legislate common sense? I think we all know the answer to that question.

As I said, I really shouldn’t have been eating that cone and trying to drive at the same time. But I did, and I will no doubt do something very similar in the near future to distract me from the task at hand, which is to concentrate on driving. I am just as guilty as others in that respect.

I was going to research this, but ran out of time. I thought there was a law that you couldn’t have anything hanging from the rearview mirror of your car. Does anyone know? Guess I can check with the DMV or a police officer.

Even if there is no law on the books, I think something swaying back and forth from the rearview mirror could be a distraction. At the very least, it can obstruct one’s vision. And yet we all know people who hang CDs, rosary beads, air fresheners, graduation tassels, garters and other assorted tchotchkes (have wanted to throw that word into a column for several weeks now!) from the rearview mirror of their vehicles.

The placard for handicapped parking is to be placed on the rearview mirror while the vehicle is parked. It is not supposed to stay on the mirror while the vehicle is in motion, but I bet you see one or two today while you are out driving around town.

The mirror thing isn’t as bad as what people actually do while driving. Ever see someone applying mascara or lipstick while driving? Of course you have. Ever see someone looking in the mirror while engaged in an excavation of their nose? Wish I had a dime for every time I’ve witnessed that!

People eat and drink (hopefully legal beverages) while driving. They also read newspapers, magazines and books. As a former English teacher, I appreciate that they are reading, but I would suggest they not do so while driving.

Would you believe people actually shave while driving? Thus far, I have only seen someone use a battery-powered razor, but I wouldn’t be shocked if someday I see someone all lathered up and using a Gillette Fusion.

How can it not be a distraction to have a dog on your lap while driving? I have seen people struggle to navigate a turn because Fifi or Sparky is seated on them. If for some reason the air bag were deployed, someone would be minus one family pet.

Some drivers are capable of some pretty remarkable multitasking, but thus far I have yet to see anyone drinking coffee, talking on the phone, reading the sports page, AND shaving their dog all at the same time!

And then there are some unmentionables that can cause distracted driving, but I will just leave it at that. It certainly would be interesting (and highly disturbing), however, to hear what others have witnessed.

I realize I have only explored the tip of the iceberg when it comes to distracted driving. You no doubt have your own examples to share. I just hope no one calls me out for using my laptop to write this week’s column. What can I say? It’s a long, boring drive between here and St. Louis.

Just kidding! I don’t even own a laptop. I still use a pen and paper.

Ron Worman is a Teutopolis resident. Email comments to editor@effinghamdailynews.com


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