Bikes, Cars and Cell Phones
While running a quick errand on my bike today I slowed to enter a four way intersection with no signage. Seamlessly, I crossed behind one car and slipped in front of another. After crossing four car lanes to get to the bike path on the far side I had to marvel at our mind’s ability to triangulate. Without a second thought we are able to slow and speed up, to measure the approaching objects and calculate distances, angles and mesh all these factors. I supposed it is no different from a cave man throwing a spear just ahead of a running buffalo to end up hitting the animal directly in the heart as the beast runs into the trajectory of the spear. We should be good at this: we’ve had a zillion years of practice.
Yet just two intersections later, I had to slam on my brakes, dang near flipping myself over the handlebars, when a driver pulled out directly in front of me. I did not matter that I was clad in day-glo green and orange at 3:00 in the bright afternoon light. What did matter was the driver was speaking on a cell phone…And the guy never even saw me. Enough said.
After recovering and continuing my ride two thoughts developed. The first being, why is it that speaking and driving are so dangerous? Hands free speaking is just as distracting as holding onto a cell phone, in fact about as dangerous as drunk driving. * When we are driving a car or riding a bike our mind does all the triangulation and foretells the estimated trajectory of the moving objects needed to merge in traffic, changes lanes and speed up or slow our vehicle down just like what had happened to me a few intersections ago. Then the second though stuck. I realized that historically, people did not hunt for food and talk at the same time. Quite simply, people were silent while
hunting and told stories about the kill later while sitting around the campfire. Our survival was based on our ability shut up and focus simply on where to throw the spear, or in other words, to mono-task. Later on while eating, there is no need for heavy duty mental calculations. We can talk all we want, playing our mind’s picture wheel as we tell tall stories. The only thing we must do is stop talking long enough to swallow our food. We have never had Darwinist natural selection need to speak and calculate, AKA talk and merge. The same zillions years of natural selection which gives us that ability to drive a car is the same gene pool that says one must mono-task while measuring distances and speed.
It seems we can’t slow down long enough to just drive our car, we are virtually compelled to be on our cell phones while driving because what we have to say is so dang important it just can’t wait! Given that, what do we do with this understanding of talking and natural selection? Sadly, nothing. People seem intent on using cell phones while driving. And the greatest tragedy of it all is that the person in the car who hits the bicyclist will be the one who survives.
* See: , www.businessinsider.com, sciencenetlinks.com