I will start by declaring that I too have been guilty of the crimes for which I am about to complain. This is not a judgment, this is a response based on wisdom, and maybe some self-righteous indignation now that I have seen the light. Let’s begin: whatever you are doing in your car, other than driving, while on the road, STOP DOING and just drive your f*ing car!
You got in your car with the intent going somewhere other than where you previously were. Great. The car, very likely, can get you to where you want to go. The only little challenge is that you, the driver, are in charge of the car and so you have to be prepared to actually drive the car. The car will not drive you, that is called a bus (and even then you have to pay a little attention so you get off at the right stop), also you could take a train, or a plane, or a ferry, or any number of modes of transportation that do not require your attention while being moved to the location of your choice. A car however, requires a certain amount of attention from the driver not only to get you where you want to go, but to prevent injury and annoyance to fellow motorists on the roads upon which you mutually travel.
A few examples that you may want to watch for: texting and/or checking your e-mail. This one seems fairly obvious at this point, we have sent eh headlines about ‘person killed due to texting,’ etc., and yet it goes on. None of us want to be the person killed because Sally just had to text Jenny about the dress she just bought, neither do we want to be Sally who kills someone. If you are reading and writing while maneuvering a car you are probably not doing a good job of maneuvering the car, so STOP. Whatever it is you need to say is not critical to the operation of the car – it can wait. Also, eating – you are busy thinking about food, and staying tidy, and finding that last french fry in the bag and… not focusing on the operation of the large metal object that you are careening through space. Talking on the phone is problematic, even when it is “hand-free” because your brain is busy paying attention to the conversation, not the road and the myriad things happening on the road. We know now that our brains are not as good at multi-tasking is we would like to believe so don’t go challenging yourself to do the impossible (or at least the not very good idea).
There are a number of activities we do in cars that seem maybe less problematic because we do them at the stop light and really we are just trying to be efficient. You have to find that whatever you just dropped, or your child is requesting a whatever, or you need to just grab the whatever from your bag. And then what? The light turns green, you fail to go because you were not paying attention to what was happening on the road, people behind you become annoyed, you go really fast to make up for your previous failure, the cars behind you speed through the yellow, then the red because if you had just gone when you were supposed to they would have made it, blah blah blah.
We are all busy, we are all trying to do too much in every twenty-four hour period. The just isn’t enough time to get everything on the list done. We want to be as efficient as possible and if I can be on a conference call while folding laundry I just crossed two things off the list. But when you get behind the wheel of a car it isn’t just about you and it isn’t just about safety (though that is a huge issue), there is also an element of mutual respect and civility that is often lacking in the world. The car, and what I am doing in the car, is not just about me and what I need to do. If I miss the light because I wanted to find my lipstick I delay myself but I also delay everyone behind me, the world isn’t just about my needs.
That old fashioned notice of keep your eyes on the road and your hands at 10 and 2, that rule, that law (because it is a law in most states, not just an advisory guideline) will actually get you to where you want to go fairly efficiently, also alive and probably without a ticket for something. Then you can do all the other stuff you need to do, or some of it. And if you really, really, really want to be texting, reading, eating, chatting, whatever while you are on your way to wherever, take the bus!