Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Evidently, time was a wastin'

The woman in the Lexus SUV behind me kept looking down at something while we were on the one ramp this morning. It was rush hour, so the ramp was metered. We'd sit, roll forward a car or truck length, sit, roll forward, wash, rinse, repeat. And when I'd stop, I'd glance in my rear-view mirror. The woman behind me was dividing her time between watching where she was going, and whatever it was she was fiddling with - texting, reading e-mail, whatever. If she'd only looked down when stopped, it would have been better, but she'd let her car roll up behind mine, while her attention was seemingly fixed on her lap.

I know that I seemed obsessive about it, but I'd once been stopped been stopped at a red light, and the person behind me had better things to do than keep his mind on what he was doing, he'd rolled into me, putting a football-sized dent in the back of my car, and consigning me to several weeks of being folded into Origami by a sadistic chiropractor. So I was very attentive to her. But no so much that I didn't realize the irony that on the radio, at that same time, was this story: Government Eyes Crackdown On Texting And Driving.

I understand bans on Texting and Driving are becoming more popular, but I don't think that it's really the way to go. Mainly because I don't think that it really hits the target. Think of the last time you heard or read someone saying that the time you spend in a car, going from one place to another, as "wasted," "unproductive" or an "under-utilized resource to be reclaimed" - even when YOU'RE the one doing the driving? Not that long ago, was it? Why do we deride time used watching where we're going on the the road as misspent? The woman behind me was clearly of the opinion that whatever it was she was doing was too important to wait. So, she divided her time and attention between driving, and the other activity - much to my consternation. (By the way, she didn't wind up rear-ending me.) But she was doing something that garners a lot of respect in today's world - "multitasking." She was doing something "constructive" in time that we currently have little respect for.

In an earlier story on Texting and Driving (which I commented on at NPRs site), one David Strayer, a psychologist at the University of Utah, is quoted as saying: "When it becomes stigmatized and you have the legislation and education and science all together as a package, you'll change people's behavior. And until you have that package in place, you're not going to see systematic changes in driver behavior." This is helpful, but it might miss the greater point. To make the roads safer, perhaps we should stigmatize the entire idea that time devoted to nothing other than controlling a moving motor vehicle is somehow wasted - a "gap" in which other, more important things can be done.

I know that I'll spend less time looking in my rear-view mirror.


Keifus said...

Not wasted, eh? I admit I wouldn't spend those lost hours producing. (But I think that makes them all the more wasted.)

I've been guilty, too. When the traffic occasionally got bad enough, I'd sometimes take the blackberry out and skim a blog post or two during the periods when I wasn't actually moving. I realize I prolly shouldna even then. Some other chump behind me could be doing the same thing while rolling. Ironically, the thing burnt out on the car charger and hasn't been replaced.

twif said...

i've had to take calls while driving, but that's why i have a headset. so i can pay attention to driving.

blessedly, i have not (yet) been cursed by having work give me a blackberry. feeling tethered to a cell phone is bad enough, but my job requires on call time, so there it is.

i must have music when i drive, but i don't consider that a distraction. it's just part of driving. mostly though, i do concentrate on driving. made all the easier by the fact that, as much as i hate traffic (and most other drivers), i do enjoy driving.

Aaron said...

I enjoy driving myself, which is part of the reason why I would rather that people paid a little more attention to it. I passed a man driving a van on the expressway (at speed, no less) with a novel perched on his steering wheel, and was slightly nervous until I could get a good distance away from him.

Being on the road gives you enough to keep track of without some yahoo deciding that he needs to get in a chapter or two of Dan Brown before he gets where he's going.