As I was driving home tonight I noticed, not for the first time, a public service announcement on a sign stretching above and across Interstate 355. The headline said, “There have been 855 deaths on the highways this year”. I wondered if that was in Illinois, nationally, or maybe the Chicago area only. As I pondered the math, I noticed that the next message on the sign warned: Don’t text and drive! Being semi-intelligent I understood the inference here, but wondered once again how many of those 855 deaths could be attributed to texting while driving. I thought it was probably a small if not infinitesimal number. Besides, how would they know? Would the dead person have a phone in their hands with both thumbs frozen in time on the keyboard? It seems to me that texting is the new government boogey man. I thought of the numerous other distractions that could occur while driving, many of them much more of a distraction than texting.
The public service announcement was first on my list of culprits. After all, how much time and attention had I taken off the road while reading the signs messages, doing the math in my head, and then pondering the possibilities? And then I thought of others: conversing with another passenger, fiddling with the radio dial, unruly kids in the backseat (shouldn’t kids be illegal?), billboard advertisements (they are designed for just that purpose, distracting the driver; they however add tax dollars to the government coffers, so probably won’t be singled out), scenery (I’m distracted by the scenery all the time; mountains, streams, trees, rolling farm land, cows, million dollar homes, Bass Pro Shops), putting makeup on in the rear view mirror, eating lunch, the list goes on.
Maybe we should make them all against the law. Don’t we want to eliminate any and all risks in life? How about blinders, you know like the horses wear, being made mandatory for all drivers? That would at least take care of the scenery. Then we can build giant privacy fences, twenty feet tall, along all roads; thus eliminating billboards, cows, and Bass Pro Shops. No conversation, music, or kids either. By making everything we do against the law, wouldn’t it be safer? But what about the circus music that always plays in my head? How would they eliminate that? Hmmm. Frontal lobotomy?
As I’m pondering all of the possibilities and arguments, the libertarian side versus government control proponents, I noticed something else that might put all other distractions to shame. As I’m driving in the center lane of three, with a mini-van on one side and an SUV on the other, I notice in both vehicles on the back of the driver seat, a small television set; small, but big enough for me to see, even in the next lane. I not only can see the little television, but I can make out the exact movie that’s playing. On one side there’s Toy Story (the original) and on the other side I have Cars. What is a guy supposed to do? I can’t watch both movies can I? Do I watch one for a while and when I’ve seen enough switch to the other one? This presents a huge dilemma for the average motorist. In distraction comparisons, where do duel movies rank? If texting while driving is illegal shouldn’t movies on the back seats of passing vehicles also be illegal? I can just see the next government warning: “Driving while watching television can be dangerous.”