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Monday, October 19, 2009

The Horrible Costs of Distracted Driving

We have written several times about the dangers of distracted driving. (You can check out posts here and here.) But a new video, making the rounds on the Web, makes the point far more powerfully than we ever could.

Research studies and government reports should not be necessary to tell us that distracted driving is a bad idea. Common sense should tell us that it's dangerous to talk on a cell phone or fiddle with a text message while trying to maneuver a vehicle.

But alas, we live in an era when common sense is in short supply. And many of us apparently are all too easily addicted to anything--including electrical devices.

Consider an op-ed piece by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who's had her own misadventures with distracted driving. Writes Dowd:

As John Ratey, the Harvard professor of psychiatry who specializes in the science of attention, told The Times’s Matt Richtel for his chilling series, “Driven to Distraction,” using digital devices gives you “a dopamine squirt.”

That explains the Pavlovian impulse of people who are out with friends or dates to ignore them and check their BlackBerrys and cellphones, even if 99 out of 100 messages are uninteresting. They’re truffle-hunting for that scintillating one.

So, we become distracted behind the wheel because it gives us a thrill. And the corporatists who run the country--and the legislators they buy off--encourage it because they make a ton of cash off electronic gadgets:

Americans woke up one day to find that they were don’t-miss-a-moment addicts who feel compelled to respond to all messages immediately.

The tech industry is our drug dealer, feeding the intense social and economic pressure to stay constantly in touch with employers, colleagues, friends and family.

Corporate chieftains certainly are not going to save us from distracted driving. And don't look for government types to do it anytime soon. We are going to have to save ourselves--from ourselves.

Perhaps the best way to do that is through widespread viewing of a new public-service video. I'm not sure about the origins of the video, but it appears to come from a Web site called http://www.streetracing.ru/, which I believe is based in Russia.

Wherever it came from, it sends an important message. It's graphic, gory, and disturbing--and it should be watched by everyone who drives.

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