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rules of the road

The Ontario government recently took time off from its daily task of covering up scandals to increase the penalties for distracted driving.

Headlines and newscasts touted the province's plan to increase fines from a maximum of $300 to a top rate of $1,000 – plus three demerit points in hopes of curbing this dangerous trend. At least, among those who can't afford $1,000.

Not surprisingly, headlines focused on texting and using hand-held phones while driving, partly because the media loves talking about high-tech things and partly because a lot of drivers' last words were "LMAO."

On one hand, that's a good thing. Anything that stops people from texting IMHOs or posting selfies to Instagram while hurtling along at 110 km/h is to be commended.

But with all this focus on the electronic side of distracted driving, the potential horrors of old-fashioned distractions have taken a back seat.

And that's a bad thing because there's a lot more to distracted driving than fondling a smartphone. Distracted drivers have been making life hell for all long before cellphones came along.

Here are the most common, and possibly most dangerous, examples of low-tech distractions that have withstood the test of time and technology:

Amateur health practitioners: While most of their activities take place at stop lights, those who apparently fancy themselves as amateur dental hygienists have been spotted performing intricate oral manoeuvres at high speeds, with or without implements such as ballpoint pens or paper clips. As dangerous as they are, they pale in comparison with those who engage in exploratory surgery on their nasal cavities while making left turns.

Road gourmets: The great thing about hands-free cellphones is that they allow hungry drivers to do things such as executing what's known as the Tim Hortons Triple Manoeuvre: drinking a double-double while munching on a Tuscan chicken sandwich and balancing a cruller on your knee. While experts say texting while driving is more dangerous than impaired driving, they might add this to the list if they ever combed accident scenes for telltale signs of onions, lettuce and mustard.

Harried, with children: Any parent who travels with a child is distracted. Any parent who travels with more than one child is one step away from dementia. Threatening the kids at 100 km/h or trying to break up a back-seat brawl make texting seem like, well, child's play. Anyone who's ever heard The Wheels on the Bus for the 100th time is prone to driving the wrong way on an expressway – purposely.

Salon on wheels: Putting on makeup at a red light is foolish. Applying eyeliner at 110 km/h, usually in the passing lane, is either suicidal, homicidal or homicidally suicidal.

Knob fiddlers: Put a knob or button in a car and an alarmingly high percentage of drivers will find themselves unable to avoid pressing them. Whether it's radio station hopping or adjusting the rear-view camera while barrelling down a highway or trying to get the heated seats to the perfect temperature while passing an 18-wheeler, they just have to press those buttons.

Too bad one of them isn't for an ejection seat.

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