It’s hard to argue with the recent emphasis on and punishments for distracted driving. Just yesterday, I had two close calls with drivers who, for some reason, were not paying attention to their business. Not long ago, a man busy talking on his cell phone decided to whip into the left lane on Manchester Expressway, oblivious to the fact I was passing him in that lane at that moment. I almost lost control of my car while frantically trying to avoid him. Distracted driving can be deadly.
The new law, though, seems to go a little far, in my opinion. Followed to its logical conclusion, it looks as if we might as well seal up all the cup holders in the driver’s vicinity in newer cars. And maybe close fast-food drive-thrus. While those evening lines may be headed home with to-go orders, I suspect most of the orders placed in early morning and at noon are destined to be consumed on the road.
Eating while driving certainly can be distracting. I got tired long ago of having tomato juice and mayonnaise from a hamburger dripping on my tie while I tried to manage the food with one hand and drive the car with the other. So I had pretty much given up on most foods while driving even before I had to start watching for spotters posing as road workers who were looking for my sandwich. A candy bar I thought was okay. Or some fries that would be cold if I didn’t consume them right away. Or especially a milkshake. Apparently I was mistaken.
Many years ago, in my bachelor days, I squeezed every moment I could out of Army leave. The rule was, the day you sign out counts as a day of leave, while the day you sign back in counts as a day of duty. The obvious solution: Sign out just after midnight, so your first leave day is a whole day. More than once, I signed out of Fort Benning one minute after midnight and headed out on leave, driving dangerously all night. I stopped occasionally at a fast-food place and got a milkshake, continuing to drive. I thought that was a good solution. Sustenance, pleasure, and staying awake while making time on my trip. A milkshake was pretty easy to drive with, even in those days before cup holders.
While on a lengthy road trip recently, I was plagued by, in addition to the usual boredom, a persistent post-bronchitis cough. Even during the part of the drive that was in Georgia, as well as in four other states, I treated the cough with a steady ration of cough drops, hoping no spotter saw me unwrap one and slip it in my mouth. In addition, I kept a supply of bottled water, cold when possible, and sipped it between cough drops. Helped the cough, briefly. Broke the monotony. Kept me healthily hydrated. And encouraged me to stop frequently, reducing the likelihood of blood clots.
None of this is intended to suggest we don’t need to reduce instances of distracted driving, nor that I am a deliberate scofflaw. I am trying hard, as others no doubt are, to maneuver my way between law-breaking and meeting reasonable needs while driving. I am not aided in this by today’s modern cars, which don’t make it easy to do anything without looking. My car is a mass of electronics which are marvels of technology. Unfortunately, almost any action requires I look away from the road first, because each requires I touch a spot on the dash or elsewhere that cannot be identified by feel.
Speaking of my car, just in case any law enforcement officers are reading this, I’m not telling you the make, model, or color. The last thing I want is to be distracted by a blue light in my review mirror.