No surprise to read in this morning's newspaper that eating is identified as yet another distraction when driving. As I'm sure everyone was already aware. Good to have it quantified though. Both drinking and eating were found to slow reaction times, significantly, and more so than drinking alcohol up to the legal limit. Putting two and two together, it's likely we will soon be banned from eating and drinking (of soft drinks) while driving. What's next? Banned from reading the newspaper or shaving or applying eyeliner while driving? Or disciplining the children or stroking the dog at the wheel?
What's needed is for drivers simply not to drive any more. Soon we won't have to. Technology is now sufficiently up to snuff that car makers have self-driving cars operating successfully. Expense will be the limiting factor, not the ability of the vehicle to actually negotiate traffic hazards on its own. Computers don't eat or drink or get distracted, unless they freeze and are unable to enact a control-alt-delete manoeuvre automatically before crashing.
It's little wonder people keep slamming into each other on congested city streets and motorways. I continue to be surprising, disappointed and a bit depressed at how many recalcitrant Kiwis still regard it as a god-given right to yabber away on their cellphones while driving or, worse, surreptitiously txt away while in control of a motor vehicle. At least most are now sensible enough to pull over and make their calls while parked, rather than forge on and put everyone else at risk. Folk should realise that headset devices can be bought for less than the cost of being pinged once, and speakerphone devices cost $150-odd. Not that these ensure zero distraction when used while driving - reaction times are still decreased by around 25 per cent - but they're an improvement on holding a phone up to one's ear, and essentially zoning out on the actual task of driving.
People eat and drive about the same amount as they talk on their cellphones while driving, studies suggest. So should eating while driving be banned? If, as the article suggests, it's the eighth most distracting thing you can do at the wheel, and it virtually halves reaction time, well then perhaps it needs to be considered. The trouble is, it's one thing to be eating an apple or a snack while driving and another to be chowing down on a footlong sub. It's really a matter of being sensible about things. It's best not to eat or do anything that distracts in bumper-to-bumper, bump-and-grind traffic. If what you're eating requires two hands to consume without messing yourself, pull over to eat it. It doesn't take long to eat lunch or a snack, and taking a break from doing anything that's time consuming and risky is always a good thing.
Simply driving some modern cars can be distracting. Don't even think about trying to sync your cellphone to Bluetooth while on the move; many (but not all modern cars) won't permit you to do this anyway. Anything with a computer-driven mouse system to control minor functions or alter car setup parameters is terribly distracting, as you have to take your eyes off the road and shift focus between the screen and the controller. Again, it's crazy to do this on the go, and most vehicles will prompt you to park up and sort it. Another serious distraction is messing with the iPod, even if it's in a car with an integrated system.
Many believe they can multitask as well as the next person. But you only need to have one mishap to know how dangerous driving while distracted can be. Sure, it may only be a fender-bender in heavy traffic but if you multitask on the open road at higher speeds where bad things can happen much more quickly, you could conceivably end up facing manslaughter charges.
When you tally up the list of what's possibly distracting it's clear that when driving we should only be driving. If anything else comes up, probably best to park up and sort it with the car stopped.
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