Lately, we’ve been playing “Where’s Edna?” at my house, kind of like “Where’s Waldo?” except that we’ve been using an Edna doll instead of looking at picture books. Edna has ended up in backpacks, under pillows, hanging from doorways, in the middle of the dart board (safely, of course), and recently behind my steering wheel.
How awesome is that? Of course, I had to remove her from the steering wheel so I could drive, but I’m thinking there’s a market for little Edna’s that could hang from the rear-view mirror as a reminder to drive safely, or return with honor, or just stop slouching. Who knows? All I know is that this fun little game got me thinking about how crazy it is that we drive cars safely with all that could distract us.
I know, I know, I’m a personal injury attorney, probably one of the best five or six in west Kennewick, so I spend extra time thinking about such trivial things like… we are on the verge of death every second! Seriously, every day we drive down the road against oncoming traffic at combined speeds of 80, 90, or 100 mph or more and we pretend like there is little or no risk that a car is going to drift into our lane and obliterate us. All because of probability, right?
It’s true that people get distracted all of the time while they are driving, especially if they are new drivers, or if they have a growing family. It’s also true that distracted driving is one of those things that doesn’t usually cause damage. A little swerving, a little slamming on the brakes, but usually we get away with distractions without harm, so we think it will never be a problem.
The reality is, texting while driving is a huge problem, but being “lost in thought” or daydreaming is actually the single biggest distraction. Cognitive distractions are the biggest of the three types, the other two being manual and visual distractions. In other words, we spend all of this money and attention on smartphones and telling people not to eat and drive, but not focusing is actually the bigger challenge and the harder to address on PSA’s and in drivers education classes. “Students, we will now begin our meditation practice so we will be able to concentrate better while driving.” Maybe I’ve stumbled upon the next generation of drivers education class.
Anyway, I highly recommend all the things that distract us in life such as family, friends, music, smartphones (ok, maybe not so much there), and healthy snacks. But I also recommend figuring out how to create a space in the driver’s seat where those distractions don’t enter. This is hard. Especially since some of the manual distractions like turning music on, adjusting AC, or even merely pressing the answer button for incoming phone calls has put me a little closer to causing an accident than I care to admit.
Just remember, when you’re behind the wheel, you are essentially a superhero launching a 2,000-pound weapon of moderate destruction through space and time. If you remember that, hopefully you’ll drive in a way that will make Edna proud. Lastly, and sort of a side note, please remember not to wear a cape.