Safety Concerns to Consider and Avoid When Driving

This is no place for a game of Twister

Safety First, My Friends

Because your humble author works in the transportation industry and drove 18-wheeler across this fine nation for a goodly span of time (you drive a 4-wheeler. Get it?), it is fair to say he is a professional when it comes to motoring over the public roadways. Sure, sure, there are other drivers out there with more experience and with a more diverse background. Your humble and effervescent author has never driven a NASCAR racing car, but he has driven a Hummer on the Autobahn. He’s never driven truck across an iced-over lake, but he has piloted one of the big, bumbling remote control blimps you sometimes see at hockey games and other indoor stadium venues. He does have a degree of experience that, when shared with the world, just might make a difference. This information could save a life.

With the motoring public’s safety in mind, as well as the safety of those selling fruit and pet turtles on the side of the road (oh, okay, and you guys peddling dying roses, too) your humble author would like to share a small handful of easily remembered tidbits to consider when driving on the roadway. This is important because, while we all know we should never drive while distracted or allow any distractions while we drive, we all know such things will happen. We’ll adjust the temperature in the vehicle, which requires reaching to the dash and momentarily looking away from the road. We’ll change stations on the radio or slip in a different CD. We’ll be listening to audio books by Nicholas Sparks and forced to dab the eyes with a tissue. You know, theoretically speaking.

Because the task of driving a large vehicle (and yes, even a Fiat is a large vehicle if it hits you while you’re buying a handful of wilting roses along the side of the road) is a significant task, yet minimized in significance because of the frequency of the task being performed continually, there are at least seven things to avoid while driving. Of course, the safety issues to keep in mind are not limited to seven, but there are constraints to this forum, so a focus on the prominent issues seems warranted. We could mention don’t drive with your knees while eating that super-sized #3 from your favorite drive-thru, but even that dangerous act doesn’t compare in severity to those seven listed below. Read on and discover why.

Playing a game of Operation propped on your lap, the console, or even worse, the passenger seat

While it is fair to say that the classic game of Operation is buckets of fun, it tends to distract the average driver’s eyes from the road for longer than should be considered acceptable. This is unsafe driving, particularly when driving along a busy highway in need of repair while attempting the extraction of the butterfly from the stomach, or even worse, the funny bone. We can say with confidence that such activities are unsafe while driving because the individual must get very close and move slowly and with deliberation if they’re not going to make contact with the metallic edge and set off the buzzer. It’s reasonable to assume a motorist could be distracted from the road for as long as twelve or more seconds to remove the piece sought, and that could be enough time to allow a rear-end collision or even the loss of the lane, thereby allowing the vehicle to make contact with other moving vehicles or a pet turtle stand. Thus, playing this game, while marvelous in itself, falls into one of our top seven distractions to avoid.

The act of tying one’s shoes while driving

This is yet another noteworthy act that can be considered distracting and dangerous. Sure, if one is stopped at the light or stop sign, a quick adjustment might be okay, but the act of propelling the vehicle ahead is something that does not pair well with trying to hike one’s body up onto the console or the armrest and then placing a foot next to the horn or on the dash in order to pull all the laces tight and then tie the shoe. This is especially true for those of us who do not attend Yoga classes; our ability to manipulate our forms under the steering wheel and watch the road through a handheld mirror placed above the dashboard’s line of sight while manipulating the wheel with the back of the neck is limited. Out of the three times I attempted this (as research for this article) I only made it down the road for more than a mile once before putting it into a boiled peanut stand. Therefore, for those who do not or have never attended Yoga, we recommend you always wear shoes with adjustable Velcro straps. There is the stigma of appearing that you made it to school while riding the short bus, but this is a safety consideration and safety comes first. When it comes to shoes, fashion overrides comfort outside of the vehicle, not while driving.

The act of solving the Rubik’s Cube

While we must admit that the act of solving this clever puzzle would not be overly difficult if one knew the sequences to accomplish the task within a couple of minutes, most of us simply do not know this. There are those who were of the appropriate age (the early teens, since no one else would do this for fear of appearing to be a nerd) when this puzzle first rose to popularity, decades ago, and then bought the cheat sheets to learn the gizmo’s solution because, come on, no one is solving that thing otherwise. Unless…

There is another effective way to solve the Rubik’s Cube, but this solution must NOT be attempted while driving! The most common way to solve this intriguing puzzle is- ready? - to peel off all the variously colored stickers and then place them back on in a manner that solves the puzzle. While this seems elementary at first glance, the act of replacing the stickers is tricky and requires a considerable amount of concentration if one is to place them back on the cube without the appearance of deviation. One must place the device close to the eye and ever-so-carefully line up the edge of the sticker with the edge of block. Because the spaces must be equidistant all the way around the cube and the block accepting the adhesive sticker, this act requires a degree of concentration that, if one was driving while employing this puzzle solution, could lead one into a pet turtle stand or a Fiat parked near said stand. This is a less-than-ideal situation and should be avoided. This could be worse if the distracted puzzle-solver accidentally plowed into one of those stands selling boiled peanuts. The chemical compounds in this fluid can negatively affect many commercial waxes often applied to today’s vehicles which can expose the finish to the elements. Then, of course, there is the issue of the potential for a skull fracture should the incident be severe enough. And should you lean out the window with the solved puzzle clutched in your hands while screaming, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there!” The only thing that will happen is Queen Latifah will appear and drop-kick you into the back seat.

In sum, let’s avoid such distractions while at the wheel, particularly on roads with many winding turns.

Creating self-portraits on an Etch-a-Sketch

This is yet another act requiring significant concentration and should be avoided while driving. There is the obvious issue of the game requiring both hands in order to manipulate the stylus under the screen in a manner required to get the angles and curves right. After all, one, in theory, could manipulate the game’s knobs one at a time and create the image, but this would affect a degree of accuracy only if one’s head and face possessed features comprised only of right angles and perfectly vertical and horizontal lines. Such a condition is extremely rare and often considered an affliction (in some regions, this is referred to as the SpongeBob Syndrome, occasionally treated with topical ointments but not excluding surgical intervention). Further, in order to get the portrait done correctly, even if the portrait is a cartoonish caricature, it still requires the artist to continually take one’s eyes from the road and look into the rearview mirror, which must be turned away from a line of vision to the rear of the vehicle and pointed right at the driver.

While this next issue isn’t necessarily considered a safety concern… if one is distracted for an extensive amount of time and ends up in a collision severe enough to warrant an extraction of victims by helicopter, we can assume the Etch-a-Sketch has been disrupted enough to lose what work was in place, leaving the artist no choice but to start all over again.

Playing the air guitar

We should be mature enough and wise enough to admit that there is an air guitarist in all of us. After all, all of us know several air guitarists, and we’ve seen closet air guitarists expose themselves without intent while performing karaoke after having consumed more than a dozen margaritas and then getting onstage to sing their karaoke version of Boston’s ‘More Than a Feeling’. To be sure, the opportunity to witness someone who, when sober, performs this classic should never be missed, but when they’ve been imbibing certain drinks and then segue into air guitar, the overall experience can be a sensory overload and considered disturbing. (Author intervention: While I am writing this, I am picturing certain local news anchors I see frequently and almost daily partaking of these entertaining acts, and you can rest assured that my colon is now watertight).

In regards to performing the act of air guitar while driving, we can assume it is an unsafe act merely because the act requires two hands. Sure, one could, in theory, drive with their knees while engaging the motoring public with such a performance, but there are others issues that should be addressed. These are, but not limited to: closing one’s eyes and throwing back the head in an emotional act of being overcome by the sound of rock music and the sheer power of the stadium’s capacity crowd. While it is amazing to see Slash do this when getting down to ‘Welcome to the Jungle’, to see a soccer mom do it while negotiating a Lincoln Navigator along a state highway is difficult to interpret as cool. Also, many air guitarists tend to thrash and sway, or even pulsate at the hips. This, if one is not cautious, can lead to a misinterpretation of where one is on the road and lead to contact with other vehicles, resulting in a series of vehicles going off the road and thereby wiping out stands selling flowers, peanuts, and turtles. Further, if contact is made with another vehicle whose driver is successfully creating a self-portrait on an Etch-a-Sketch, the abrupt bump could shake his game and corrupt the portrait, inciting anger and a potential for gunfire.

Therefore, feel free to sing along to the radio. But avoid playing air guitar to The B-52s ‘Rock Lobster’ while singing and driving. Yes, we all love to sing it as loud as we can, but rocking down to Ricky’s guitar while driving falls into a certain category: Unsafe.

Bathing a pet cat

For those of you in the know, giving a cat a bath is a considerable challenge all by itself. However, an entire new dimension of courage and daring comes into play when attempting to bathe a cat while driving. The level of play upgrades a notch when one must manipulate a standard shift while they’re at it.

The levels of risk compound steadily when certain factors come into play. First of all, if all things were equal and the road was straight and free of any bumps or debris, one could theoretically bathe a cat while driving. However, the cat should be used to bathing and then well into its senior years, and heavily sedated. For those unaccustomed to such multitasking, the tubs best used for this are the ones designed for newborns and can be best manipulated while on a counter or table. They’re often lightweight since they’re made of a firm but light plastic, making the transition from lap to console (should one continue ahead with this act despite the precautions outlined here) relatively easy. But keep in mind that the road must be smooth, or there is constant risk of the soapy bathwater to slop over the side of the tub and then risking the car’s upholstery. Now, if your car’s interior is vinyl, the potential for damage is minimal. But if the interior is leather or another weave easily stained, the sloshing of bath water, particularly if exacerbated by a panicked feline that has yet to be declawed, can be distracting. Then, of course, there is the potential event of an angered cat clinging to your face like a creature from the Alien movie franchise and tearing the sensitive skin of your ears and scalp, blocking one’s view of the road ahead.

It is doubtful there is an extensive count of readers who cannot appreciate the potential danger of bathing a cat while driving. However, if there are any of you with an element of doubt, please confine your bathing of the cat to while driving along the back roads, or at night when traffic congestion is minimized. Or better yet, to the streets of Washington, D.C.

Preparing raw vegetables for soups and stews

There is no question that soups and stews, particularly when filled with wholesome vegetables, are an excellent part of a healthy diet, especially for people on the go. But the preparation of the vegetables for the pot can be dicey (sorry, I couldn’t help it), and this couldn’t be more true than when slicing and dicing veggies while handling knives and food processors while balancing a cutting board on one’s lap, and driving a motor vehicle on a public roadway.

Think about this rarely considered perspective: Most of today’s vehicles come equipped with an efficient climate-control system, which minimizes the need to roll down the windows. This accompanies the tendency of many people to avoid rolling down the windows, since technology has allowed people to live in outer space for a considerable amount of time, but we have yet to design an electronic vehicle window that will last, say, beyond fifty thousand miles without ending up stuck up when the driver lives in a desert environment, or down when in an environment achieving more than one hundred inches of rain per year. The point is that people will leave the windows up, and if they place a cutting board across their lap and retrieve a large knife so they can peel and chop the onions for their soup or stew, there is a potential for eye irritation in such a confined space and so much onion in the air. That much eye irritation while driving on a busy highway with a large knife in hand can be considered unsafe.

Further, most vegetables require two hands in order to process them properly for the soup or stew. Trying to remove peas from their pods without losing them on the floor and then feeling compelled to reach down and seek them is a difficult impulse to avoid. Then, to consider a worse problem, the act of peeling potatoes can be difficult while driving because the act takes two hands, which can end up slimy and wet while trying to handle the wheel. Just imagine the process of driving while removing corn from the cob!

Depending on the sort of cutting board used could be a factor with how much the driver is forced to stop vegetable processing in order to sharpen knives. The act of driving while sharpening one’s knives while trying to balance a cutting board full of onions on one’s lap is a severe distraction and should be avoided whenever possible. I’ve seen people clamp down a sharpening steel in their teeth and swish the blades faceward to achieve a better blade, but just the right bump or a sudden halt due to a bus and…

While there will always be those who will say the effort to eat healthy shouldn’t be discouraged, we can assume they may not have considered the complexities of driving in busy traffic or when manipulating a standard shift. Therefore, it is the recommendation of most authorities that the act of meal preparation and the act of driving a vehicle be kept mutually exclusive. Separately, each is a joy, but when combined they can lead to trouble.

So there you have it, dear readers. By taking the advice found in this informative article into consideration, we can reduce the amount of accidents taking place on our public roads and highways by a significant percentage. But please keep in mind that these seven things to avoid do not add up to the entire list of things that do not blend well with the act of driving. Never forget that drinking and driving is still a crime and that putting on makeup while driving is only slightly less dangerous than bathing a cat while driving.

Through the incorporation of safe practices and considering how the combination of certain tasks, however safe they may be independently, could lead to unsafe conditions, we can assure a safer place for all of us on the roads of today and tomorrow. Thank you.

Author’s Note: The above issues, when performed by a school bus driver are worse, not better. Not better (go with this for me, people) but worse. I know buses tend to be slow, but don’t let this fool you. It isn’t better, but is, in fact, worse.


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