DAY 25: There’s No Delusion Like Self Delusion

No offense, but you are too slow, distracted and immature to operate a motor vehicle.

Years from now, people will look back and say, “You mean to say that non-evolved, unaugmented people, including hormone-addled teenagers, were allowed to self-operate 3,000-pound vehicles at 75 mph. What were you thinking?”

That’s the amazing thing about humans: Even when we absolutely, positively know the difference between smart and stupid, we often choose stupid.

I can say this with absolute confidence because I, too—while recognizing the difference between smart and stupid—have frequently chosen stupid. Of course, never as stupid as Megan Barnes. More about her in a minute.

“Driving is by far the most difficult, complex, and high-risk task most people other than bomb defusers and brain surgeons will ever do.” — Edward Humes, Door to Door: The Magnificent, Maddening, Mysterious World of Transportation

Now—some terrifying, mind-numbing numbers

The American Automobile Association reports the following:

  • 82% of drivers say that distracted driving is a serious problem, yet … more than 50% of us talk on a cell phone while driving
  • Nearly 75% of drivers say speeding is a serious problem, but … about 20% percent admit to exceeding the highway speed limit by 15 mph
  • 97% of drivers say it’s unacceptable to drive while drowsy, but … about 33% admit to driving in the past month “when they were so tired they had a hard time keeping their eyes open.”

Ah, the miracle of self-delusion. “I think that people in some instances have a false sense of their own abilities to multitask,” said Rae Tyson, spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That’s a polite way of putting it. The NHTSA also reports that 75% of drivers say they’re more careful than most other drivers. Right.

The Legend of Megan Barnes

Ultimate distracted driver Megan Barnes

By law, every discussion of driving self-delusion must include Megan Barnes. In 2010, the then 37-year-old Indiana woman rear-ended an SUV while driving with her ex-husband to meet her current boyfriend in Key West, Florida. Her faux pas? While her ex held the steering wheel and she kept her foot on the accelerator, Barnes shaved her “bikini area” to prepare to “visit” her boyfriend. Of course, she was driving with a suspended license. Oops.

The next time I get in a car—or shave, I’ll be thinking of Megan Barnes. I bet you will be, too.


Photo credits: Bad driver 1 by VeronicaStupid IV by Laura Lewis, licensed under CC 2.0