It’s one of the ‘joys’ of being a grown up … from being ferried around by mum and dad or walking a short distance; suddenly you have a job, a car, and you are driving across several counties (maybe) to your job.
In my 29 years of working, my commute to work has varied from seven miles to 56 miles each way. Plus a few jobs that have involved joining the herd of people on a tube train into London from Buckinghamshire.
So, in all that time what have I concluded? That I still dislike driving, and that Radio 1 is just a load of tedious noise?
Well in those 29 years the biggest thing I have noticed is how many roadside distractions that are competing for your attention. The abundance of advertising, signage of ‘useful’ information, which in fact is a total waste of your time. Do I really need to know about the latest office block being built, and how many square feet of usable floor area it has? Or the frequency of the local radio station to get traffic news?
Motorways usually feature disused lorry trailers in close-by fields to advertise anything from the local music festival, to the closest carpet warehouse. Everywhere you pass there is something fighting to get you to notice it.
And the nature of advertising has changed too. It’s not enough to simply have a hoarding, telling you how much the latest widescreen smart TV is from the dreary electronics chain down the road. Oh no, it has to be an electronic board promoting the latest tour coming up from what’s left of Take That, along with a string of their greatest hits and concert footage … while you whiz past at 70 mph.
That’s before we even get to what’s inside the latest modern car. The car manufacturers will tell you that the massage feature in your seats should only be adjusted when you are stationary, and that the setting for concert-level surround sound should not be changed while on the move … yet they put every temptation in your path.
Let’s move onto mobile phones. In the press office, we often get asked by the media “But what if there’s an emergency? Surely you have to use a mobile phone while driving then?”
Please tell me what level of emergency would that be? One that would be so urgent that you could not stop your car to take the call, and handle the alleged drama?
While local authorities appear to not care too much about the amount of roadside distractions that are placed in the eyesight of the motorist, the onus is on each and every one of us to not allow all of this nonsense to influence us.
Yes, the commuting is often dull but that is no reason to switch off your brain. We rely on each other to keep us all safe. It only takes one of us out there in commuter-land to take our eye off the ball. This could possibly lead to a tragedy affecting a lot of other people, who do not want to be involved in your accident, thanks very much.
So, when you are driving, just drive. No looking out for an office to rent, or that local smartphone offer, or the two-for-one kebab deal.
By Rodney Kumar, IAM RoadSmart media relations manager