DISTRACTED DRIVING

Distractions are dangerous when driving. It’s why using your phone while on the road gets you a hefty fine from the police and the loss of demerit points.

Distractions are bad. We don’t need or want them when driving, but sometimes it’s out of our control. Like when the kids argue with each other in the back seats of the car or when you sneak a peek at the hot topless man jogging down the street. Sometimes distractions just happens.

The worst kind of distraction is the one you can’t even see… it’s called brain overload. You know, when you’re so in your own head thinking about upcoming bills to pay, scheduling appointments, grocery shopping items, how much washing you have etc. You’re thinking about the million and one things that need to be done.

Brain overload was quite possibly the reason for all the accidents and near-accidents that keep happening to me lately. A few weeks ago, while on my way home from school drop-off, I was in brain overload mode. I was thinking of the sale of the house, what to buy for dinner, the bills I had yet to pay, and a whole host of other unnecessary thoughts when I sideswiped a car.

I was driving around a bend of a single lane road. There was a parked car in my lane, and so I had to veer around it and drive into the opposite lane. As I was passing the parked car, another car driving in the opposite direction came past. Instead of waiting for me to past the parked car and get back into my lane, the oncoming car refused to give way and continued on. In order to avoid side swiping it, I pitched further towards the parked car and side swiped its side mirror. Does this make sense? Maybe the below picture will help.

Blue car: me

I heard the sound of smashed glass as I past and I knew without a doubt that I had hit the parked car. I parked and went to inspect the damage on my car. There was none. For about a second, I thought about driving off but immediately chastised myself for being a shit human being. I went to inspect the other car. The cap on the side mirror had fallen off and a bit of plastic was broken. Other than that, nothing else was damaged. I had my son with me, so we walked up to the nearest cafe to get paper and pen, and left my details under the window wipers.

I received a phone call later in the day. The old gentleman told me his wife had just passed and the car used to belong to her. He was going through a tough time in his life and that he was grateful for my honesty. So instead of going through insurance and costing me an arm and a leg in excess insurance money, he got his mechanic friend to fix it for a third of the cost. Luckily for me, as it was an expensive BMW sports car.

A few days ago I was innocently driving along when a Chopper Reid looking bloke in a Holden Commodore blew out from a side street and almost became a T-bone accident statistic. He had the audacity to stick his finger up at me, like it was my fault he didn’t give way. It rattled me quite a bit.

Blue car: me again

Then yesterday, I almost had another accident while doing a right turn into a highway. The car in the opposite direction did a left turn into the same highway and nearly collided with me. However, after my initial indignant reaction, I realised I was at fault as I was meant to give way first. I can’t chalk it up to distractions, it was simply ignorance.

Blue car: that’s right, me again!

My husband joked that because I’m an Asian woman, poor driving is to be expected. Actually, I don’t think he was even joking! He fully believes this stereotype of Asian women.

It got me thinking. Why do people believe stereotypes? Why do people subconsciously and consciously have oversimplified and overgeneralised beliefs about groups of people?

Does culture play a role? If we are raised in a culture and surrounded by a society that readily accepts certain stereotypes, are those biases programmed into our psyche?

What about media? It’s not uncommon for stereotypes to be exaggerated in movies and tv shows. Remember Apu from The Simpsons?

Anyway, my husband and I had a heated disagreement about stereotypes. He believes they play an important role and there’s a reason they exist. My counter arguments were that stereotypes limit people’s ability to be tolerant by encouraging prejudices and oversimplifies negative assumptions about groups of people in a hurtful way.

It was a pointless exercise as we have such different worldviews and cultural influences. In the end, the only thing we could agree on was this… stereotype and distractions aside… maybe, just maybe, I’m simply a bad driver.

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TWO DAYS FROM RETIREMENT

Recently, the kids and I were involved in a car collision on the way home from school pick up. A car had failed to give way at an intersection, trying to cut across two lanes of oncoming traffic to turn right and hit our car.

The impact of the front on smash to our car caused my six-year-old to smack her cheek, cut her lip and have a bloody nose. I had whiplash. My toddler and the other driver were physically unharmed.

The suddenness of the accident left me in a state of shock. It was hearing my toddler’s piercing wail and the sight of my distressed six-year-old that had me jump into action. With smoke coming from the engine, I managed to roll the car towards a traffic island and call emergency services. To my surprise, an ambulance, two police cars and a fire truck came to our rescue. I was grateful for everyone’s assistance and support. 

After everyone was cleared by the ambulance officers and I had removed all of our belongings from the car, we stood by the curbside to watch as the tow truck pulled away with our beloved Toyota RAV4. 

I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness and loss at the sight. For seventeen years, the car had served me well and driven me to places near and far. Seventeen years of memories was being towed away and I was certain, never to be seen again.

I can recall the day I bought the car at a secondhand dealership with my dad like it was yesterday. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I had eagerly signed on the dotted line. It was my first car purchase; my biggest loan; my first real debt. 

To me, it was more than transport, it was symbolic of my growing independence. With the RAV, I was able to travel to work destinations all around the state, experience freedom from a stifling home life and explore uncharted territory. 

I chose my RAV as the wedding car to save money and because I’m sentimental. 

It brought both my babies home safely from the hospital. We’ve done loads of short and long distance holiday trips. It even sailed on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry with us. 

There were bumps and grazes from me reversing into walls, letterboxes and bins. I don’t think there has been anything I haven’t reversed into. I like to think it gave the car character.  

Everything from Thomas the Tank Engine to Frozen stickers were plastered on the back windows. Each time the kids went through a different fad, a new section of the window would be covered.    

There were spills and splatters… oh, so many coffee spills and food stains. The car had housed one or two secret McDonald’s feasts.

It was not my car. It had become a family car. Our very lived in and beloved family car. 

We have spoken many times about upgrading to a newer car and giving the RAV to my parents. A selfish plan on my behalf to keep the car and its memories nearby. It had served its purpose for me but could live its last legs with another family member.

Never could I have imagined that the RAV would be ripped away unceremoniously from me! I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye! 

Sure, it had a funky smell and tacky mats. And yes, the airbags didn’t release in the accident and the seatbelt probably didn’t do a great job for my daughter but up until then, it was my brand of a perfect car. How can any new car ever live up to the charm of our beloved RAV? 

You’ll be sorely missed, old friend. Rest in Pieces.  

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