COLUMN: Distracted driving … and just plain dumb

Distracted driving has the attention of the province once again, with authorities pondering whether to ratchet up fines for texting

Distracted driving has the attention of the provincial government once again, with authorities pondering whether to ratchet up fines for texting and yakking motorists.

They should also consider a “dysfunctional driving” category.

A case in point: I was merging onto a major road in town the other day, and as I’m waiting for a clear spot, the following scene unfolds.

Passing by is a small car, transporting a mattress – not tied on top, but inside.

The driver had fed the mattress into the rear hatch, and rammed it through the interior of the vehicle until it nearly touched the windshield. He then wedged himself into the substantially reduced driver’s seat space.

Picture a relatively large man driving along, forehead pushed down nearly to the steering wheel, as he fought to keep his eyes up on the road, while the mattress weighed down on his head.

There are other words besides dysfunctional which could be used to label this genius.

Sadly, he’s not alone in his tenacity and limited creativity in overcoming various driving challenges.

From my column archives:

One winter morning on my way to work, I had another occasion to view a most peculiar, if not mildly disconcerting sight.

An oncoming motorist was dealing with a natural phenomenon not uncommon during West Coast winters – namely, condensation on both the outside and inside of the windshield.

(There are other such seasonal conditions found out here in Lotusland, known as ice and snow; however, they are increasingly rare, and therefore largely ignorable.)

Anyway, as you might imagine, or perhaps know from firsthand experience, windshield condensation severely restricts the driver’s ability to see through the fogged glass.

The effect is dramatically compounded when driving into a rising sun, as was this fellow.

His windshield had been transformed into a blindingly bright, opaque rectangle. Sort of like when aliens land on your hood.

(Some drivers no doubt have reported the latter to the police when asked to explain the circumstances of their behaviour.)

There are remedies for the situation, of course. Obviously, one is to use the defrosting feature found in every vehicle, prior to becoming mobile. This does take planning and time management, since it can require several minutes for the engine to warm the air being blown on the glass.

The other solution is to wipe away the condensation, using the manufacturer-supplied wipers externally, and a moisture-absorbent cloth or tissue on the inside. This is only a temporary remedy, since the windshield will rapidly de-fog until it warms up, but certainly better than nothing.

However, both courses of action were apparently too time-consuming for this particular motorist.

Instead, he was resolutely making his way along with his head out of the open driver’s window. Think of a dog enjoying a car ride, except his tongue wasn’t flapping in the breeze.

As you might imagine, the effectiveness of this approach was considerably reduced by the fact that the driver was blinking like an owl on ecstasy, due to the combination of the bitterly cold 50 km/h wind striking his eyeballs, along with direct, searing sunlight.

I chose to pull over a lane, just in case he needed the one I was in.

I’m not sure how we legislate against dysfunctional – or just plain dumb – driving.

Maybe a basic IQ test…

Should you wear a mattress on your head while driving? Yes? No? Don’t know?

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