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By Jordan W. Charness

For most of us, driving on the highway has become pretty easy to the point that it’s almost something that you can do with your eyes closed (though obviously that’s not the best way to drive). According to law, you are required to be constantly aware of your surroundings and not be distracted by anything happening inside or outside your vehicle.

Still, driving has become pretty routine, so much so that most people spend much of their time thinking about things other than their driving: shopping lists, work they have to do, or just how annoying the person in the seat next to them is being. For instance, on any long highway trip I tend to write these columns using my computer and a voice recognition program. My long-suffering wife sometimes resents being forced to drive the car without being allowed to listen to the radio, satellite, CD, or any of the other in-car entertainment systems we have.

Instead she just gets to listen to me speaking slowly into my computer while I artfully compose these columns. It drives her to distraction. At the same time that she is trying to tune me out she will accidentally tune out other external stimuli as well. Perhaps that explains why she just drove off the road. Well, not completely off the road, but just enough to hit the rumble strips on the side of the road and jolt us both back to reality.

Truckers worry about getting “white line fever,” caused by staring at endless strips of broken white lines while traveling thousand of kilometres. Our so-called highways can be super boring. Cruise control settings can make a long drive easier but also allow you to creep up on the car ahead of you if you are not paying proper attention.

There have been studies showing that driver fatigue and boredom have lead to countless accidents. There are even some jurisdictions in the United States which have made driving while tired illegal. Even in those jurisdictions that have not made it a specific offence to drive while tired, you can be held responsible for an accident that was caused by the fact that you could not keep your eyes open.

There are also various criminal code and statutory offences that could be thrown your way if it is determined that you caused damage to another person or vehicle because your mind was wandering when it should have been paying attention to the road.

We won’t even get into the cell phone debate or texting while driving discussion since there is enough controversy on those topics to fill an entire future column.

And much as you would like to be able to blame those who distracted you for causing whatever accident or incident you may get into, as far as the law is concerned, the driver of the car is ultimately responsible for his or her actions and the safety of all her passengers and those on the road. Much as my wife would like to blame me for driving her to distraction by writing this while she’s driving, the law will not allow it.

I better go now, she’s telling me it’s my turn to drive…

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