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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