The National Safety Council in the United States has declared April Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
This does not mean that everyone should start driving while distracted (if this were the case, we could call the initiative a success right now). Instead, the NSC, which estimates that 25 per cent of crashes are caused by the use of hand-held devices, hopes to raise awareness of the dangers of texting and talking while behind the wheel.
So far, so usual. Distracted driving is a blight on our highways. Everyone knows it, yet everyone continues to do it despite the lethal wreckage. What's more remarkable are the findings of a study on the relationship between driving fatalities and the distraction of being "lost in thought" (also known as "daydreaming").
The study, sponsored by Pennsylvania-based Erie Insurance Group, examined 65,000 fatal accidents and found that 10 per cent were caused by distraction. Of these, a surprising 62 per cent were the result of "generally being lost in thought."
Other distractions included cellphone use (12 per cent) and conversing or looking at "other occupants" (5 per cent). Last on the list were cigarettes (1 per cent) so, at least when it comes to driving, smoking isn't all that bad for you.
Regular Road Sage readers know that I'm against distracted driving and my propensity for hyper-vigilance helps me resist the temptation to text and send e-mails while I'm cruising down the highway in my Porsche. I get that. I'll do everything I can to stop it. For instance, I already don't own a Porsche.
But daydreaming? I'm now supposed to stop daydreaming?
I'm a male in my mid-40s living in an urban setting with a job that involves a desk and a computer.
Daydreaming is all I've got. I'll stop doing a lot of things. I'll stop drinking Coke. I'll stop drinking alcohol. I'll stop eating cheeseburgers – okay – to be honest I won't stop doing any of those things, but on the chart of "How hard would it be for me to stop doing things," those would be far down the list. I could kick Coke and cheeseburgers way before I abandon the fine art of daydreaming.
Everybody has a dream. Eventually those dreams die and all you have left are daydreams. How do you think I get through meetings? Parent-teacher interviews? Virtually all conversations?
And now I'm supposed to stop daydreaming while driving? Daydreaming is to driving what fries are to a cheeseburger. They belong together. If I did not daydream while driving, the following events would never have occurred.
- Andrew Clark makes “The Catch” on January 10, 1982, scoring the winning touchdown with 51 seconds left when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana throws him a pass in the end zone.
- Pulitzer Prize Winner Andrew Clark! Most of the best sex Andrew Clark has ever had.
- At least three award-winning novels all written by Andrew Clark.
- 1998 Wimbledon Men’s Singles Champion Andrew Clark.
- Andrew Clark experiences a spiritual awakening and infuses that awakening throughout his life.
Strange, thinking is one of the activities I most associate with driving. It may be that I'm merely the product of a generation who saw cars as the answer to everything.
Often through the course of my life, when I've been struggling with a problem, I would go for a drive. Some of the best ideas I have had occurred as a result of "D and D" (Driving and Daydreaming).
I'm not advocating drivers emulate Walter Mitty. You need to keep your eyes on the road. Driving is demanding and it requires skill and focus, but our cars are now so advanced technologically that they practically drive themselves. Soon they really will be. In fact, I'm pretty sure that self-driving cars will put a stop to daydream distractions.
After all, when it's okay to do, who'll want to do it? The essence of having a daydream is that you're not supposed to be doing it. If it's okay for you to drift off and imagine winning the lottery or having enough free time to actually read a book then you're not daydreaming, you're just dreaming. Daydreams, by their nature, are meant to occur while you're supposed to be doing something else.
So hold on tight to your daydreams, but don't get distracted by them. Keep focused on your driving. And don't be alarmed if you see me stopped at a red light with a curious smile on my face. Odds are I'm not doing anything illegal or immoral. I'm probably just curing disease, winning the Indy 500 or starring in a Broadway revival of the 1930s revue As Thousands Cheer.
That, or coming up with next week's column.
Follow Andrew Clark on Twitter: @aclarkcomedy