The Garden Grove Police Department is cracking down on people who talk on their cell phones or text while driving. That’s fine.
But they’re hardly the only forms of distracted driving that put you and me at risk on the streets of The Big Strawberry and nearby communities. This is my threat assessment.
Risky but common:
• Eating while driving. People have been doing this since cars have been on the road, especially with the arrival of the automatic transmission, which freed up one hand. Gets scarier when you try to retrieve that french fry that fell on the floorboards.
On top of that, a soda can or bottle that rolls off the front seat and comes to rest beneath the brake pedal is a recipe for disaster. Be prepared to smash that glass (or plastic or aluminum) to keep from busting all the other glass in your car.
• Singing while driving. Also very common, but if you are loud enough, you can drown out the sound of a siren or horn. May also reduce visibility when you throw your head back to hit that high note, or hammer the drum solo on the steering wheel or dashboard. This also applies to listening to music.
From risky to stupid:
• Pet perils. Some people drive around with a dog on their laps. Usually it’s a small dog, but large dogs bounding around the car can be a threat too. Dogs (bless their hearts) can get pretty excited and their motions can jar gearshifts, block your vision and knock your supersize Slurpie over.
• Parenting. I’ve seen some drivers who have their badly-behaved kids in the back seat and twist their heads around every 50 yards to yell at their offspring, usually to no effect. “Don’t make me stop this car!” is often followed by a car being stopped by smashing into the rear of the SUV in front of them.
• Romancing. People have been known to smooch while driving. Albert Einstein, a well-known hot-blooded physicist, once said, “A man who can give a pretty girl a kiss while operating a car is clearly not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.” I myself once at a traffic light kissed a girl and, in my reverie, took my foot off the brake and the car tapped the vehicle in front. No harm, no foul, but it could have been a lot worse.
Close to suicide.
• Reading while driving. Lord help me, but I have actually done this. Once bought a book in Los Angeles and was so enthralled by it I read a couple of chapters on the way to The O.C. I have no excuses. Don’t do it.
• Watching a video while driving. Most video players are designed to shut off when the car is in motion, but those are easy to defeat. Let’s just hope that the movie they’re watching isn’t “Fast and Furious” or “Jackass.”
• Tidying up. Some folks feel the need to reach down to pick up that book or purse that fell off the front seat. That’s how Albert Brooks got killed in the movie “Defending Your Life.”
Asking for it.
• Riding a motorcycle. Yes, I know, you bikers out there will bristle with outrage at this, but you can’t repeal the laws of physics, as Scotty used to say in the old “Star Trek” episodes. You: moving fast with no more protection than (ideally, but not often) a helmet, leathers, gloves. It: the road, a car, a tree, a guardrail. The result: bad news. You know what emergency room nurses call motorcycle riders? “Organ donors.”
I realize the last one doesn’t strictly fit into the “distracted driving” category, but the way I see it, you’ve allowed yourself to be distracted somehow from the statistics and sheer obvious deadly consequences of zipping along at freeway speeds without the airbags and bumpers that automobiles possess. Unless you’re riding a moped at 15 miles an hour down a quiet cul-de-sac, sooner or later you’re going to end up in the hospital or worse.
Death or dismemberment. Now, those are bound to be darned distracting.