ENID, Okla. — Editor’s note: This column was first published June 1, 2003.
Americans are lousy drivers.
No, really, we admit it.
In a recent poll, some 91 percent of drivers contacted said they took part in one risky activity while behind the wheel in the previous six months. And they say everybody else on the road is even more dangerous than they are.
Drivers polled admitted to speeding (73 percent), eating (59 percent), using a cell phone (37 percent), not wearing a seat belt (28 percent), not using their turn signal (26 percent) and reading while driving (14 percent).
So today I’ve decided to break new ground and try a new dangerous behavior while driving — writing.
Yes, this column is being composed while I am tooling around the streets of Enid in my brand new, high-powered Ferrari, which will go from zero to 60 in the blink of an eye.
OK, OK, so I don’t have a Ferrari, I have a 7-year-old car with more dents than horsepower, a vehicle that goes from zero to 60 in the time it takes to read the Gettysburg Address.
OK, we’ll take a right on Garriott and head west after stopping at Sonic for a foot-long cheese coney, which I will attempt to eat while also driving and writing.
Dangerous driving really isn’t our fault, you see. The auto manufacturers are creating too many cool gadgets to distract us from the business of driving.
Hello! Aren’t there any turn signals on that model, you Goober? Yeah, and your momma’s another one ... Oh, sorry, where were we?
There are in-car DVD players, satellite radios and built-in MP3 players that hold up to 5,000 tunes. There are navigation systems that mean guys will never have to stop for directions (as if we ever did anyway). There are rearview cameras that help while you’re backing up, or let’s you see where you’ve just been if you’re one of those people who doesn’t like to look too far ahead in life.
Ah, for crying out loud, watch where you’re going, you idiot! Red light, what do you mean red light? Well, it wasn’t a real deep red. Oh, that’s going to leave a stain.
At least I’ve never tried to shave while driving, or put on makeup. I always do that before I leave home. The shaving part, that is.
OK, let’s turn right on Oakwood and head north for awhile. While we’re at it, let’s take a quick driving test, administered by the safety group Drive for Life. Question 1: The single largest contributor to crashes is: Stupidity? No, it’s failure to be aware of what’s happening.
Question 2: If the speed limit is 45 mph or less, how many feet before the turn should you use the turn signal: Two or three? Wrong again, it’s 100 feet.
Question 3: The posted speed limit is: Always too darn slow. OK, that’s zero for three. It’s the fastest speed you can drive in ideal conditions. Question 4: Talking on a cell phone while driving is: Convenient and entertaining. Oh, just missed it. It’s illegal in New York state.
Question 5: What percentage of fatal collisions involve alcohol: a lot of them. Can’t I get partial credit? It’s 40 percent.
Question 6: Embracing a passenger while driving is: a good way to get your face slapped. Darn. It’s illegal in Washington and Oregon.
“Whoa. Get out of the way you stupid mutt! Oh, sorry kid. I guess my eyes aren’t what they used to be. No older driver jokes, please.
In the aforementioned survey, in fact, 68 percent of those 65 and over said teenagers should be re-tested to make sure they are driving safely, and 59 percent said senior citizens should be re-tested.
Eighty-three percent of those under 26 said senior citizens should be re-tested, while 47 percent said teens should be re-tested.
Hey, you want to drive in your own lane for awhile, you brainless sack of ...? Yes, officer, I was talking to ... oh certainly, as soon as I can find the brake. Ah, I’m going to have to cut this short. I’m going to be a little busy for a ... proof of insurance, yes officer. I know I’ve got that around here somewhere.
Just remember, when you’re driving keep your hands on the wheel, your eyes on the road and your mind out of the gutter, or that’s just where you’re liable to end up.
May I say, officer, that shade of blue looks wonderful on you. No sir, I’m not trying to be funny. I wouldn’t dream of it.
Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, but not while you’re driving, please.