Disturbing New Driving Trend?
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
My first experience with Los Angeles traffic came five years ago. After about a week on the job, I made the 13-hour-plus drive from our Medford, Oregon HQ to LA for the first time. In a GMC van towing a 20-ft trailer filled with motorcycles, I rolled into LA about 2 a.m. with a list of addresses and no clue of how to get to them. The freeway was disturbingly barren even at that hour. This ain’t so bad I thought, just before a host of cop cars in the opposite lane flew by in a high-speed chase.
Attractive woman reading Kindle on the beach = good.
Middle aged man reading Kindle while driving 55 mph in the fastlane on the 405 = bad.
While that’s the only high-speed chase I’ve witnessed in LA, I’ve seen plenty other odd things driving there and back. Trend-setting California always seems to be the place where I see, or at least notice, the latest driving trends.
I prophesied a bleak future when on one of my early trips I passed a Toyota Prius swerving suspiciously. I thought the driver was drunk – really drunk. Turned out she was steering with her knees while frantically text messaging. At the time the notion that someone would attempt to operate one of those Blackberry thingamajiggers while driving was novel to me. Obviously, that was a long time ago, as seeing someone mashing away at the cell phone keyboard while motoring at 75 mph is ubiquitous on the great American roadways.
Other discoveries manifested to my hayseed sensibilities on those long LA runs include DVDs in the backseats of cars. God I wish my family had one of those on the epic tragedies that were our summer vacation drives. The predominant use of hands free cell phones is another trend first noticed in LA. On the whole, a positive trend, though the site of every other driver talking into space makes LA roads appear to be filled with babbling schizophrenics – or actors practicing their lines.
On this latest trip to LA, however, I saw maybe the most disturbing harbinger of our driving future. I'd just visited Honda Motorcycles
in Torrance and after hopping on the 405 freeway there he was parked in the fast lane driving a small pickup at 55 mph with loose cardboard billowing around in the bed. Queued up in the long line to pass, when I made my way around I gave the driver the ol’ stink eye. But he wasn’t paying attention. He was too busy jabbering into the air via hands free device, but he wasn’t using those free hands for driving his car. Nope, he was holding and reading one of those new digital book readers – pretty sure it was a Kindle.
Please tell me this isn’t a sign of things to come. Driving a car can be mundane and boring (particularly during a 750-mile drive from LA to Oregon), but can we collectively agree to keep the distractions auditory – limit them to the radio, the iPod, the sexy English lady accent on the GPS, or the screaming kid strapped into the car seat? No texting. No video games. No writing letters. No reading emails, books, newspapers… or Kindles!
I know, too much to ask. Well, perhaps one day technology could embrace our innate drive to distraction and channel it - develop a heads up display that presents a video game depiction of the road ahead, with drivers getting points for staying in the lanes, using blinkers and keeping their eyes on the road.
Not a bad idea actually. I’ll keep an eye out for it on my next LA run…
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