Monday, August 24, 2009

Stop me if you've heard this one

“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign/ Blocking out the scenery/ breaking my mind/ Do this, don’t do that/ can’t you read the sign?”

If your senses are becoming increasingly overloaded, perhaps it’s time to adopt this 1971 hit by the Five Man Electrical Band as your ringtone. Just don’t answer any calls or text messages while driving.

The very devices that make our business and personal lives easier can also take our eyes away from the primary task at hand – namely driving. It’s a serious enough topic that the feds called a summit to address it.

The effort to address the overarching issue of driver distraction is noble, but where does it start and where does it end? It certainly didn’t start with text messaging, and it won’t end there.

Just about anything can distract a driver: food, music, conversations, pets, papers, Qualcomm, etc. And that’s just inside the vehicle.

Outside, we have billboards, traffic signs and signals, detours, construction barrels, toll booths, lane restrictions, speed zones, other drivers, the list goes on.

Can’t you read the sign? Or have you rolled past a million of them and glossed over one that you needed to see?

Good drivers can handle a great deal behind the wheel. We routinely talk to truckers with millions of safe miles, and that is reassuring. But nobody is immune to the dangers of distraction. You may be the best driver in the world, but it means nothing if a distracted driver cuts you off.

To err is human, but we are all accountable for our actions. Does this mean we need laws to tell us what we can and can’t do behind the wheel? Where does driver training and respect for the road fit into this?

As our world gets smaller, our free time shorter, and our field of vision more cluttered by signs and distractions, perhaps we could all be a bit more careful. Then, we wouldn’t need lawmakers legislating behavior.

(Note: This was not, I repeat not, posted from my BlackBerry).