Sign Up: Writer | Buyer
Contact Us

Empire State Building
350 Fifth Ave, Suite 7313
New York, NY 10118
phone: (800) 704-6512

Price: $20.00
Minor modifications of this article are permitted to adjust to the available space or to the publication’s editorial style.
Driving Me Crazy
by Robert Soloway

I’m a fairly passive driver. I’m not a right lane, speed limit creep, but I’m rarely in the left lane tailgating at 75.

I like to think I have a good driving record, although it isn’t perfect. I have one moving violation and 5 accidents in 40 years of driving. No one has been killed or seriously injured in any of my mishaps. 2 have happened in parking lots, but that’s another essay.

I have been alive long enough to remember my family’s 1956 Buick. We kept it until 1965. By today’s standards, a death trap. No seatbelts, crumble zones, or airbags. I think a big selling point of the car was the “Padded Dash”. This meant that the metal dashboard of previous years had been padded with about an inch of foam, so that when your head slammed against it at 60mph, there was something absorbent to soak up the remains of your brain. When I was 15, I was the first person on the scene of a fatal car crash at the end of a drag race on a street near my house. I got to see a dead kid whose head had hit the staring wheel and the windshield, and there were still pieces there to prove it. I puked.

I saw worse a few years later. As I ran upon an accident scene, I came upon a piece of skull and the person who was missing it. She had been thrown though the windshield, maybe 30 feet from the car. Good thing the first blow probably killed her.

Well, we’ve come a long way. Unfortunately, there is a down side of the technological advancements. Driving has gotten easier, that’s good, but it gives the illusion of being safer, that’s bad. Handling and braking are better, sure. As are lights, wipers, defrosters, well everything. Since cars got easier to drive, people tended to drive them while paying less attention. It is this inattentiveness that concerns me.

It simply used to take more effort to drive a car. A 1956 Buick couldn’t drive down a winding bumpy road and stay in a lane without constant correction. A few bumps on a turn could put it on the curb. Tires jumped and shocks bounced and the whole car might lose contact with the ground. You had to really pay attention.

Nowadays, it is so easy to drive a car, that the driver is easily tempted by distractions. Some involve the passengers in the car, which has always been the case, but now we have a myriad of other distractions.

According to statistics, playing with the radio/CD/music source is still the most common. People have all kinds of choices from the various AM and FM channels to the CD’s with all its adjustments, to iPods and plug-in’s of all sorts.

Next comes eating and drinking, with coffee leading the way. This is the net effect of the “Starbucks” revolution. There is an intersection near my house where you can get coffee drive-through on every corner! Coffee is followed by everything you would expect, namely the messy fast foods, burgers, jelly donuts, tacos etc.

Let’s not single anyone out. Let’s single all of it out. Distractions cause accidents. The simple truth is, we are hurting and killing each other by engaging in these conveniences while driving. As of 2000, distractions in cars were considered the cause in more than 25 percent of police-reported motor vehicle crashes” according to NHTSA. About half of those involve interactions with passengers in the vehicle, and the rest are due to phones, food, radios, the usual suspects. But there are some more telling statistics. Distracted drivers are 50% more likely to be seriously injured or killed in their crashes as opposed to an undistracted driver. 50%!

You see when you are eating or talking on the phone, even if you are looking at the road, your reaction time is slower. If you aren’t looking, you don’t get to react at all. This seemingly small difference in responding creates a much more serious accident.

Did you know that even with all our safety features, 43,000 people are killed yearly on our roads? Broken down by age, car crashes are the No. 1 cause of death for every age from 3 through 33.

So maybe we are talking about 10,000 Americans dying yearly due to unnecessary distractions.

Now the really bad news: The rate of distraction is growing rapidly. It seems like people just driving, are a minority.

My intention for bringing these statistics to light is not to scare anyone, but rather to point out how powerful commercial interests are, and how spineless politicians can be in this country. Did you know that cell phone use while driving is banned in almost all countries in the world? Many countries levy large fines, even suspend licenses, for putting on make up, eating, or reading while driving.

It is hardly an issue here. We are fertile turf for corporate rule. This is one of those cases where the “general good” has to take precedence over the convenience of some and the profits of others. We can’t count on the commercial interests to shut down because people die drinking their coffee while driving. It’s not their responsibility after they sell it.

Granted it takes a brave politician to come out against drinking coffee or talking on the phone while driving.

Maybe if those of us who see the real cost-benefit would speak out more, they might find courage. Maybe if more people knew the true price of their phone call, coffee, or burger, the price in injuries and deaths, they might understand the concern the rest of us are having. My 16- year-old daughter just started driving. Need I say more?

My advice to her, pay complete attention while you drive. You may be the only one on the road doing so.

Published: Jul 15,2008 21:54
Bookmark and Share
You may flag this article with care.


Featured Authors
Andy Cowan
Andy Cowan, an award-winning writer, whose credits include Cheers and Seinfeld, regularly contributes humor pieces to the Los Angeles Times and the CBS Jack FM Radio Network.
Paul M. J. Suchecki
Paul M. J. Suchecki has more than 30 years of experience as an award winning writer, producer, and cameraman. He's written numerous newspaper and magazine articles. Currently he writes, produces and shoots for LA CityView Channel 35 and his more than 250 articles for are approaching half a million readers.
Coby Kindles
Coby Kindles is a freelance journalist, screenplay writer and essayist. She has been a staff writer at Knight Ridder and a regular contributor to The Associated Press.
Debbie Milam
Debbie Milam is a syndicated columnist for United Press International, an occupational therapist, family success consultant, and motivational speaker with more than 20 years experience. Her work on stress management, spirituality, parenting, and special-needs children has been featured in over 300 media outlets including First for Women, The Miami Herald, Elle, Ladies Home Journal, The Hallmark Channel, PBS and WebMD.
Dan Rafter
Dan Rafter has covered the residential real estate industry for more than 15 years. He has contributed real estate stories to the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Business 2.0 Magazine, Home Magazine, Smart HomeOwner Magazine and many others.
Jack Nargundkar
Jack Nargundkar has been repeatedly published in Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. He is also an author of "The Bush Diaries" published in July 2005.