Thursday, June 25, 2009

Multi-tasking Behind the Wheel

Ten years ago, Bill Gates ordained that multi-tasking would be the wave of the future, and it was so. And now everyone is trying to get everything done at the same time.

Driving is an excellent example. The act of driving these days with so such traffic congestion is a boring task. Hours of monotony, punctuated by moments of terror.

But let’s face it, there are a lot of toys in cars now, to fill the monotonous times. Particularly cell phones.

You know it's been shown that driving while using a handheld cellphone is just as dangerous as driving drunk. And texting is even worse. California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Washington all prohibit all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving.

But, alas, Mr. Tech Manners doesn’t live in one of those states. He wished he did.


The other day Mr. Tech Manners was happily cruising on a nearby highway, driving at the pace of the traffic in his lane, when suddenly a sub-compact roared up. The baseball-capped driver parked himself about 5 feet behind him. Mr. Tech Manners glanced at him in the rear view mirror. He was so close he could almost read the boy's tattoos. And there was the cellphone appendage again. As this went on, the adjacent lane opened up, but the boy remained parked on his tail. Mr. Tech Manners pulled into the open third lane and continued. But after a momentary pause, the boy pulled in behind him and parked 5 feet back again!

Luckily, Mr. Tech Manners was getting near his exit. As he pulled off the ramp on one of his favorite back roads, he found himself behind a woman driving an SUV very slowly. He had no choice but to trundle along behind her at a prudent 3 car lengths.

From behind he noticed that the gadget was in active use, but suddenly she placed it on the steering wheel and furiously jabbed at it with her thumbs. Finally they arrived at the last traffic light before home, and the lady suddenly accelerated through it as it went from yellow to red. Mr. Tech Manners stopped and waited.

The instant the traffic light turned green, some meat-head 5 cars back honked. Mr. Tech Manners wondered where his tire iron was. And then, as he was about to proceed through the light, a driver on her cellphone found herself in the middle of the intersection, momentarily confused about which way to go. She spoke hurriedly into her cellphone, waved meekly at all us on-lookers, and then completed her turn. Minutes later Mr. Tech Manners was home, sweet home.


Cars are actually very old technology, but there are clearly some serious differences of opinion among people about how to drive them. Mr. Tech Manners recommends the following:

Keep up the pace - everyone knows about the unofficial “up to 5-10 miles over the speed limit” covenant. Driving slightly faster than the speed limit, especially on small roads, really keeps things moving. Driving too slow makes most of the drivers behind you angry and impatient.

Don’t tailgate or park yourself in traffic behind someone else while immersed in a call. It is just rude, pure and simple, and very unsafe. The old rule was to stay behind other drivers about one car length per 10 MPH in speed. These days though, when some swine is bound to cut in, so the old rules can only be used as a guide.

When you are turning, use your blinker (turn indicator). It’s old technology, but it still works. And put it on, say, 5-10 seconds before you turn so other drivers know what you’re thinking. Just slowing down isn't good enough.

Finally, just use some courtesy. When you are on a cellphone and encounter a busy traffic intersection, just put the phone in your lap for a few seconds. If you get into an extended conversation, just pull off the road for a minute. You’ll be glad you did. And so will your call mate and fellow drivers.


Now don’t misunderstand. Mr. Tech Manners loves cruising along on the open road, the wind blowing through his hair. But these days are not Steve McQueen’s days, back when Mr. Tech Manners, s a young man, used to race around the outer roads of his town late at night in his Mustangs. But today’s road congestion, even at night, makes that hard to do these days (even if Mr. Tech Manners was tempted).

And to his credit, he has never run into anybody or anything in his life. All Mr. Tech Manners' accidents have involved backing up. He wonders if that says something about his personality, but hasn’t decided what yet. I’ll let you decide.


  1. The texting while driving is a greatly disturbing trend. I actually emailed my state senator about it recently. We need a law not only banning the practice but also imposing heavy fines for violators. $50 per violation ain't gonna cut it.

  2. I had to have my car towed this past weekend, and the tow truck driver said that just in the past week he had towed cars from 2 car crashes, both involving young girls texting while driving, one fatal and the other near-fatal.