Let’s Focus, People

There was a story in the Toronto Star earlier this week about how 100 drivers a day fail to stop behind the open doors of a streetcar, putting them at risk of hitting a disembarking passenger.

So what’s one the big reasons for the failure to stop?

Cell phones. Yup, drivers are so busy yacking away that they often fail to see a large, red public transportation vehicle come to a stop ahead of them.

Why people in many places are still allowed to drive and talk is a mystery. There’s no way you can truly focus on driving if part of your brain is paying attention somewhere else. People who check their Blackberrys are even worse.

The lack of focus is becoming a pandemic. Rather than paying attention to the task at hand, we’re distracting ourselves on purpose.

Along with cell phones, Blackberrys, iPhones et al, one of the biggest distraction culprits is the iPod. People plug in and tune out as they walk, bike and take the bus, subway and streetcar – oblivious to their surroundings.

As I ride back and forth to work on my bike, I’m shocked that so many people ride while listening to their iPods. They can’t even hear me coming alongside them, let along a car. Given how little respect Toronto drivers give bicyclists, the last thing I’d do as a bicyclists is not be completely focused on the task at hand.

Perhaps multi-tasking is to blame. We live in a world where doing more than one thing at a time is totally acceptable. How can anyone be super productive if they’re only doing one thing at a time?

Truth be told, we all need to focus on being focused – be it driving, biking or working.

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  • Mark McKay

    I totally agree, especially about the whole bike thing. I see it everyday while riding to work. It drives me crazy.

  • Tim Fletcher

    Since cell phone driving has been banned in the UK for years, and I now live in Canada I find difficult to accept that I’m allowed to use a cell while diving. It just ‘feels’ illegal and most definitely very dangerous. I mean how would you feel if you killed someone because you were on the phone? And you’re allowed to be on the phone??

  • Michael Seaton

    I ride to work almost everyday. I agree, I can’t imagine riding while listening to an iPod – you need to hear what is going on around you. And cell phone users who drive are just not attentive or focused at all – never mind how they are using GPS units as an additional distraction.

    I’m lucky that I can ride through quiet neighborhoods for the most part – about 75% of my ride. The other 25% on main streets is spent dodging drivers making right turns who never look to see if there is a cyclist beside them, while others do not leave any room to ride beside – it is dangerous out there on all fronts.

    I put out a tweet last week about starting a “Bike Lanes on Yonge St.” movement. I hope we can gain some momentum and effect positive change for cyclists in Toronto. This city is way behind on transforming into being cyclist friendly. I’ll be blogging more about it soon.

  • George Tsiolis

    Unfortunately, it will probably have to take the tragic death of a child crossing the street before changes are made.

    I’m not one to throw stones, as I am guilty of talking while driving as well. However, I have implemented the following rules for myself.

    1] NEVER read e-mail or text. NEVER
    2] NEVER dial a number while the car is moving. If I have to make a call, I wait until I’m stopped at a light/traffic, etc. and then dial it. That way, I’m never looking down when I should be looking straight ahead.

    It isn’t perfect but these are by far the two most dangerous phone distractions when driving.


  • E Guy

    Driving on the freeway, you can always tell a driver on the cell phone…it is that gradual move from one lane to the other regardless of the location of other cars… symptomatic of the driver being distracted by the conversation and not aware of the road conditions or those around him/her.

    The ban on cell phone use while driving cannot come soon enough.

  • Larry Borsato

    My wife was almost killed last week when a 21 year old (in his Mercedes E550) was on his BlackBerry and went through a red light and hit her, causing her SUV to roll several times. The guy walked around the whole time my wife was being pulled out of her upside-down vehicle and taken to the hospital – still on the BlackBerry.

  • Steve

    I think they should ban street cars too. They block traffic, endanger passengers, are always behind schedule and uncomfortable to boot. Maybe if Toronto had a decent subway system there would be less people yacking on cell phones driving cars. Problem solved.

  • Matt

    I was never completely convinced that my driving suffered while on the cell phone until I heard a researcher explain the problem on the radio(and I’m paraphrasing): while you drive, you have a constant internal monologue playing…in effect, you’re talking to yourself. “There’s a truck…that lane’s open…that guy up ahead is crossing the street,” and so on.

    As soon as you get on the phone…that monologue disappears (presumably that part of the brain is busy with the phone conversation), and your driving becomes seriously impaired. You don’t have to -feel- distracted, but you most certainly are.

  • T

    its much easier to text while driving then talk on the phone while driving. I text while driving because i can do it without looking at my phone, and i only do it when i’m at a light or there are no cars right around me and the road is clear. And if something comes up suddenly i just drop my phone in my lap and i’m prepared.