Driving home from the gym this morning, I heard the radio DJ talking about an accident somewhere in Pennsylvania, caused when the driver tried to change his shoes while driving. Basically, anything one does while driving a vehicle, other than the actual driving of said vehicle, is stupid. Propelling a several-thousand-pound hunk of steel down a highway at 70 mph is a pretty serious responsibility, and it deserves more than a fleeting amount of attention.
But we’ve all done it – we’ve all “multi-tasked” while driving, putting ourselves and everyone else on the road at risk. Here’s my list of transgressions. It should be noted that most of these were done well in my past, and I’ve learned a thing or two with age. Or maybe I just can’t multi-task as well as I used to. Can you add any tasks I haven’t thought of trying? Hey – keep your mind out of the gutter – I’m not THAT stupid, and hopefully neither are you!
- EATING: I know, this one’s a no-brainer. Is there anyone who hasn’t eaten while driving? That’s why they have drive-through windows, right? I’ll admit, this is one I haven’t given up, especially on long trips. The key is to find something neat and well-contained to eat while driving. Keep the wrapper on half the burger, and start eating on the side where the ketchup is already over-flowing to avoid having a lapful. Try to find something that doesn’t require a lot of eye contact – I’ve never thought that ice cream cones were a good choice, because you have to watch what you’re doing.
- MAP-READING: It’s always a better idea to stop the car to read the maps, assuming you don’t have a passenger that can handle being the navigator for your trip. Generally, my husband drives and I tackle the maps. This task may be going the way of the Dodo bird though, as everyone embraces GPS technology and paper maps start becoming obsolete. I’ll miss them. There’s something very comforting about unfolding a map and seeing your entire journey laid out before you, rather than seeing it in small bites of data.
- MAKE-UP APPLICATION: Ladies, if you’re a non-morning person like me, applying make-up in the car can become a flat-out necessity. There have been times when I habitually put all my make-up on during my morning commute. I’ve never worn a ton of make-up, but it was still quite a process. I’d try to focus on maximizing my time at stop lights, frantically brushing on blush and mascara. As long as I wasn’t the first car in line, I didn’t need to watch the actual traffic light. I just had to keep the brake lights of the car in front of me in my line of sight. When their brake lights went off, it was usually a signal that the light had changed and I needed to apply at least a little of my attention to the road. And on mornings when the traffic lights didn’t cooperate? Yes, I confess…I drove down the road while watching the rearview mirror or vanity mirror on the back of the visor, and I applied blush, mascara and lipstick at 50 mph or more. The biggest risk of harm (disregarding the risk of causing an accident) was mascara – one little bump and the mascara brush is in my eye – ouch. The biggest risk of comical disaster was lipstick. A good-sized pot hole could leave my lipstick running right up the side of my face. I retired from make-up-while-driving a while ago, with the exception of lipstick. But after all these years, I don’t even need a mirror for lipstick, unless I’m wearing something uncharacteristically dark or bright. I can generally put on my lipstick without a glance in the mirror, and then, when I finally get to a light or my destination, I just check to make sure I haven’t done anything too embarrassing.
- CHANGING SHOES/CLOTHING : I don’t think I’ve ever tackled changing my clothes while driving, with the exception of shedding a coat or jacket. But I have to admit I’ve changed shoes while driving. For a couple of summers, I did it regularly. My husband and I were in a couples golf league on Friday nights, and the course was over 30 miles from my place of employment. The highways were always busy on summer Friday nights, with everyone headed north (the direction I was headed) to camp and boat for the weekend. I was always the last person to get to the golf course (does this sound like a list of excuses?). My husband would often be waiting in the parking lot with the golf cart fully loaded, barking at me to “get in!” So yes, I changed shoes while I drove. How? Well, I’d remove the right shoe quickly, and drive with a sock, then quickly slip on the right shoe. Then do the same with the left foot. Could I tie them as I drove? Uh, no. As foolish as I was, I wasn’t that crazy. But, if I caught a long traffic light along the way, I would certainly take advantage of it to tie my golf shoes! That long, hectic, stressful commute was the primary reason we dropped out of the league after two summers. It generally took me three holes just to settle my nerves from the mad rush to get there.
- CELL PHONES: Ah, the bane of the 21st century. How did we live without them? And how can we get back there again? Today we are forever tethered to the world at large through our cell phones. Don’t get me wrong – I adore my Blackberry(s). I love having email and internet access while I’m traveling. But I do seriously try to avoid using it in any way while driving. For one thing, it’s illegal in New York. For another, it’s really irresponsible to think you can look at a phone screen and drive a car at the same time. Far too many people have died trying. I’ve been behind the wandering vehicles of people who are clearly looking down at their phones instead of up at the road. With all that said, I have, on rare occasions, used my phone while driving. I use a hands-free device to talk, and I don’t think I’ve ever typed a message while driving. But I have read messages while driving (I know, I know). And I have pulled up internet weather maps and GPS maps on occasion as I drove. There’s just something so compelling about smart phones, and we convince ourselves that we MUST have access to information immediately. But is there really anything that can’t wait until we reach our destination? Or that we couldn’t have done before we got behind the wheel?
The older we get, the smarter we get, right? Which means we should be smart enough by now to just drive, and pay attention to what we’re doing. I’m going to really, really try to cut back even more on distractions while I drive. Lately, I’ve been leaving the Blackberry in my purse, instead of pulling it out where it’s handy, “just in case”. I want to go sliding into old having fun, but not on a hospital gurney! Let’s all try to be more careful out there, okay?
If you can think of anything silly you’ve done while driving that I haven’t mentioned, please share!
NOTE TO MY SUBSCRIBERS: You may have noticed I skipped nearly an entire week of posting. Sorry, but I’m slowly moving my normal posting day to Sunday/Monday. Trying to publish a post mid-week proved to be a bit challenging with a full-time job. The natural solution, of course, would be to write them ahead of time, but I’m a deadline-driven gal, and I’ve spent too many bleary-eyed Tuesday nights frantically finishing a blog. Thanks for understanding!