Life Car Talk

Friday 22 August 2014

The dangers of letting your mind wander while sitting at the wheel

Talking Point

Eddie Cunningham

Published 09/07/2014 | 00:00

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It is dangerous to not concentrate when behind the wheel.
It is dangerous to not concentrate when behind the wheel.

I OFTEN wonder what is going through people's minds when they are driving.

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I'd say it is fair to estimate that they are not on driving for a high percentage of the time. I could be wrong but the evidence before me every day. I'm sure you have noticed it too.

So many people seem to be madly distracted. No, not by techno-gadgetry (that is another day's work and thanks for your praise and criticisms of last week's piece). By just not concentrating.

Reluctant

I am reluctant to raise the issue because I run the risk of being accused of talking down to people as if I'm above reproach.

Let's clear that up immediately. I am not.

But the other morning sort of crystallised it for me and prompted this.

I was driving down to the midlands on Saturday.

Before I was on the M50 from the Sandyford exit, five people, yes five, had pulled out in front of me; into my lane without as much as a hint from the indicator.

They didn't even look.

They were NOT on the phone (that came later) and they didn't bother to even recognise that, on three occasions, I had to brake fairly sharply to avoid an incident.

I'm no saint myself, as I've just said, but one thing that was drummed into me from an early age was to let people know when I was going to do something.

And when I did that, I was told it didn't mean I could just assume I had a right to follow through. I could do it when it was safe.

Lots of drivers now seem to think that because they are indicating they have the right to swing across in front of you.

Anyway, once onto the M50 I got a gala show of people texting and talking on the phones. Two happen to be straddling a lane each so it is difficult to get by.

One nonchalantly drifted back to his lane when he saw, eventually, the disruption he was causing.

Further on down at a busy junction (I took the old road, not the motorway - my solitary objection to a €2.90 toll each way) a Ford Fiesta driver swayed for the best part of 10km in front of me.

No, not drunk or nervous. Driving with one hand on the wheel and the other clutching a mobile phone.

I kept my distance until I saw clear road ahead. Only - you won't believe this - she pulled across to turn right just where I was going to overtake.

No indicator. No scan of the rear-view mirror. I was glad I had a powerful car under me and could call on its pulling ability to get by in an instant.

A couple of seconds more and, I am serious about this, you might not be reading this.

Hubbub

On the face of it, what I've just recounted looks 
harmless enough. A few people not bothering to indicate, someone chatting away while driving leisurely down a sunlit road on a Saturday morning. Sure what's all the hubbub 
about?

The point is there is no hubbub; no one shouting and beating a drum. It is silently becoming part of the culture of our driving.

That's the worrying part. Maybe I'm over-reacting but there is a slow, steady erosion of what we'd call safer driving; the sort that checks before they act.

Or am I being too critical?

Tell me what you think: 
ecunningham@independent.ie

Irish Independent

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