Minute #476: In Control

“I think you’d better hand those keys over to me,” Robert said. “You don’t seem to be in full control of your faculties after the party. I usually don’t tell you how to live your life, but tonight it could be life threatening if I were to keep silent.”

“You’ve gotta be kidding,” Tobias replied, slightly slurring his words. “I would never risk my life. I’m in complete control.”

“If you insist on driving, I’m going to walk home,” Robert countered shrewdly.

Tobias raised his hands in surrender. “Okay, you win! I think you’re wrong, but I’ll let you get your way this time. It’s just too cold and too far for you to walk. Here are the keys. Let’s go.”

An automobile is a dangerous weapon; all it takes is the light pressure of a foot on a pedal to propel several thousand pounds of steel at high speeds. Vigilance is required even when driving in “perfect” conditions; people have had accidents in clear, dry weather on generally safe roads. One who takes the wheel must keep in mind his or her own safety as well as the safety of the vehicle’s passengers and pedestrians on the streets.

It used to take a few alcoholic drinks to render a driver incapable of handling a car safely, but today, new types of distractions make the most clear-minded, otherwise cautious people a danger to others.

Joking with the passengers can make the driver turn away from the view out the windshield. Snacking and drinking occupies at least one hand and takes one’s attention off the wheel. Listening to controversial talk radio can get a driver to concentrate on the topic rather than the road. A telephone conversation — even hands-free — can become an emotional affair that takes one’s mind off the immediate task.  And looking at a text message — or, even worse, responding to one — distracts mind, eyes and hands which should all be focused on safe driving.

When you take the wheel, consider others and consider yourself. Stay in control.