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road sage

There's no use crying over spilled milk.

That's a sentiment as true today as it was the day it was first spoken, which was probably a little bit after the first caveman thought it would be a good idea to drink milk from a goat's udder. Yet there are exceptions to this rule.

There's no use crying over spilled milk unless it's spilled inside your automobile.

Then you can cry as much as you like because that spilled milk is going to fester and stain your supposedly stain-less interior and there's not too much you can do about it. Why? Well, you're driving and the person who spilled that milk somehow managed to do it even though that milk was in a sippy cup that was designed to make spilling milk nearly impossible. That sippy cup is odd because, if you put water inside, it doesn't spill, but if you pour milk or juice into it, that sippy cup leaks like the Titanic.

You can't stop to clean it up because you're late for school and, by the time all the children are shipped off and you are finally at work and you take the time to track that spilled milk stain down, you realize it's gone underground. Now it's just a smell. A smell that says, "This smell is going to get way worse."

So feel free to cry, my friend. Cry, cry away.

Spilled milk is just one of the hazards of the back-to-school driving season, a period that brings with it a host of frustrations and perturbing incidents. No matter how long it's been since you were in school, gentle September mornings bring with them a sense of impending doom and panic attacks. Grown men who haven't been in a classroom since mullets were in style can feel the unease creeping down their backs and you see it on the streets and highways.

This collective anxiety expresses itself in the following way: Everyone drives like they're on crystal meth that's been laced with LSD and inhaled with a hashish chaser. They zoom through rush-hour traffic without signalling while texting to tell everyone at the office they'll be late. In school zones, where people should be taking extra care, they speed – they speed so they can get to school on time.

Allow me to address this: To all parents of over-achieving children, please let me calm your nerves. The fact your child prodigy misses the first 10 minutes of his Grade 2 class on the mechanics of the medieval village will have no bearing on his or her future success. You don't have to speed through a school zone to make sure you make it on time.

In fact, responsible parents should be using this time to teach their children how to be late. If you really want to win the "World's Best Dad" mug, then the next time it's 8:43 a.m. and you're behind schedule, just tell your kids: "Hey, it's only school, it doesn't matter; let's go get a coffee."

The back-to-school season is also the time road crews traverse our nation's highways collecting all the broken iPads and other mobile devices parents have flung from moving vehicles while on holiday over the summer. That's another unintended environmental consequence of this technology – all the litter caused by parents freaking out when the high-tech distractions they've shelled out big money for fail to do anything but create more problems.

I have come close to hurling our iPad into the wilderness. Did you load it with Adventure Time? They want to watch Regular Show. Packed it with educational games? They want to play Call of Duty.

Some would argue that's why you should get video players in the back of the front seats: so each of your offspring can view their own shows. I say no. No way. Nope. Never. Neverissimo.

I'm going to hold a ceremony this week and back my Dodge Grand Caravan over our iPad. Next trip, they can stare out the window or they can read. We need to help our kids develop their imaginations and that requires boredom cured by reading. As a writer, my future depends on it.

The final symptom of the back-to-school season is the abundance of evidence demonstrating that most drivers need a refresher course. It may be the quality of the sunlight or the crispness in the air, but the driving transgressions are many and readily apparent. Unfortunately, it's unlikely that drivers will actually put the effort in to become better at driving. We now have the miracle of "self-driving" cars to make the motorist an afterthought.

At the end of August, Nissan said that it would have a self-driving car in North American showrooms by 2020. An analyst from Kelley Blue Book told Bloomberg: "As sci-fi as it sounds, self-driving cars that don't crash, reduce traffic congestion and make valet parking obsolete are coming." Nissan's executive vice-president Andy Palmer said, "Unproductive commutes could become a thing of the past."

So technology is going to solve our driving dilemmas? Permit me to recall a few past technological predictions.

  • Computers will create a paperless workplace.
  • The Internet will give you more free time.
  • Mobile phones will liberate you from the office.

If we all believe that "self-driving cars that don't crash, reduce traffic congestion and make valet parking obsolete" are going to solve all our problems, maybe we all should be going back to school.

Follow Andrew Clark on Twitter: @aclarkcomedy

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