Monday, May 25, 2009

Americans don't drive, so much as they careen. I have driven in Germany, France, Holland (Amsterdam) Ireland, Greece, Czech & Austria; I most dread driving in America. 

Every third person here,  has a cell phone glued to their ear, uninformed and unaware of the fact that they may not be the only person on the road.  Handsfree is mandatory in Europe. 

 "Cell phone distraction causes 2,600 deaths and 330,000 injuries in the United States every year, according to the journal's publisher, the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society."

Most of these people are driving very nice cars, and they have nice hair and fingernails and very pretty sunglasses, so I'm not sure why a beautiful cell phone earpiece is not part of their ensemble.

 I spent a lot of money on mine, a delicate contraption which makes it look like a Ceylon has taken up residence in my ear, but I still can't keep track of all these careening lunatics if I have it in my ear and am talking to someone, so I try not to try.  In addition, a light sneeze will send the black plastic into unreachable black plastic reaches of our Honda, so I just don't dare most of the time. Meanwhile the thing is so contrary, it's out of juice most of the time. I have voicemail. I'll call ya back. 

Here in Frederick, cell phone use is usually combined with having the family dog in your lap, a lit cigarette, kids bouncing around,  and gleeful nonchalance about the color of traffic lights and lane markings. Never having had to use a turn signal on uninhabited farm roads growing up, they don't bother on inhabited roads, either. Everyone has to take notes on where these people go, and memorize it, so the driver is never bothered by having to tell others what they will do. 

I assume it's a kind of Darwinistic system by which the offspring of the careless are scared into being more careful, however, the usual result is slightly more extroverted. 

The other kind of driver we get here is something I call a Beltway Bandit-- a term originally used for something else, but perfectly suitable. 
Taxation without representation appears to result in suicidal tendencies, a political result I actively support correction of.  Usually careening at improbable velocity, into spaces too small for both the bulk & lack of maneuverability of the (usually oversized or overpriced) vehicle, the pilot is generally either reading the Post or watching a DVD, if not also appearing to have an Italian-style conversation with someone on some type of mobile device, these people don't appear to have time to so much as breathe without doing 125 things at once. Unfortunately, in their ambition, they steal the breath of those dodging their idiot path of blithe highway destruction. 

I'm not sure what is so important about these cell phone conversations.. I would hate to think that someone's pizza order, or grocery list conversation with the spouse, was the one that killed my kid, my mom, my own spouse, because someone wasn't paying attention. 

"The NHTSA estimates that your chance of getting in an accident increases by 300% if you're talking on your cellular phone while driving. In addition their data shows that 25% of all traffic accidents are a result of distracted drivers."

There also seems to be a rule about Escalades, Suburbans, and tricked-out, overly clean pickemup trucks. They speed, zip around like elephants pretending to be mosquitoes, and work hard to burn as much gasoline as possible. Acuras and BMWs are almost as bad-- does anyone remember the difference between an Acura/Lexus/BMW owner and a porcupine?

 No wonder they are so unhappy. They can't figure out why they have financial problems. Perhaps, if someone is driving one of these unwieldy heaps, they have already failed certain intelligence tests, and are not likely to pass others. 

People with evangelical church stickers on the back of their Suburbans, Siennas,  Ridgelines and other giant gas suckers are aggressive careeners. Unfortunately for those of us without guardian angels, "Not Perfect, Just Forgiven" doesn't apply to involuntary manslaughter in a court of law.    

There are some compensation issues people attempt to address with large or ostentatious vehicular displays, which tend to show up in infantile behavior and attempts at dominance displays while hiding behind several tons of metal and chrome. 

An incompetent, insecure idiot in two tons of metal and chrome, is still guilty of manslaughter, no matter what kind of lawyer they can afford. 

A recent conversation on public radio brought up intoxicated driving, cell phone driving, speeding and other public transportation issues. The solution offered, was to make driving illegal. 

For most of you, it should be, because I hate going to funerals. 
My forensic pathologist friend tells me that they test bodies found near wrecked cars for marijuana as well as alcohol, because the former does a number on proprioception as well. 

As to the US Marine who gave us a friendly wave about the huge space we left in front of us for him to travel North on 495 past Quantico, this is for you. I wish everyone on the road cared as much for each other, as you and I do. 

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