Keep your hands on the wheel!

Posted on October 24, 2010 · Posted in Impact and Symptoms

The silly, if cheerful, pop song from the fifties, “Seven little girls“,  gives us the chorus:

All together now, one, two, three / Keep your mind on your driving / Keep your hands on the wheel / Keep your snoopy eyes on the road ahead / We’re having fun, sitting in the backseat / Kissing and a hugging with Fred!

A somewhat improbable notion, considering that there were seven girls (plus Fred) in the back seat; but it has an important lesson: the driver should keep his mind on the driving, his eyes on the road, and – most obvious – his hands on the wheel!

And yet this is far from obvious in today’s info-starved, comm-crazed culture. Today’s drivers may not be distracted by amorous exploits in the back seat; after all, most of us drive alone to work. But we have plenty of distraction from our mobile devices.

In the beginning this meant cellphones, and many countries hurried to legislate the mandatory use of a hands-free device to at least keep the driver’s hands on the wheel (pay heed, gentle reader; the use of a cellphone while driving is a serious risk factor for traffic accidents).

But then the problem shifted to a far more dangerous use model: typing and driving. Much of this involves Texting; Prof. Paul Atchley of the University of Kansas spoke about this in the Information Overload Awareness Day event last week and his research shows that 95% of young adults text and drive; and they often text with both hands on the device. This is scary, especially given that  young drivers already have a high accident risk. Many states have enacted laws against this too.

So now I hear of an even scarier culprit: email. I was lecturing on Info Overload when a man in the audience told us that he has a friend that “from the length of his replies I can tell how fast he’s driving”. To our amazement he added that this friend once included in a message an apology for the brevity of his reply, expressly attributing it to the fact that he’s driving.

Don’t. Do. That!