Know a DimWiT?
Fact: Parents worry. It’s part of the job description. Worrying about everything from their children’s hair and hem lengths to matters of heart and mind, life and death, parents have been pacing since Adam and Eve fretted over sibling rivalry.
Though passing kidney stones may seem more appealing, conscientious moms and dads attempt to allay fears by initiating multiple, crucial discussions with their concern-causing kids. Avoiding fundamental topics, no matter how excruciating, is negligent at best. Consequently, adults prompt many memorable scenarios underscored by munchkin squirming, eye-rolling and crimson-faced “Just kill me now!”s as they stammer through the timeless hits, including but not limited to: the facts of life, substance abuse, sexual promiscuity, the concept of discretion. Adding to the fun, hot topics absent from our parents’/grandparents’ anxiety meters: online predators, AIDS, designer drugs, a cable TV-brimming adolescence (in HD ... Hormone Delirium!), and self-loathing thanks to Photoshop’s deceptive ingenuity and unattainable media “ideals.”
Equally agonizing are exceptional, explanation-defying topics. Hitler, slavery, violence, bigotry, what happens after death, how to tell if you’re really in love, Paris Hilton’s and tofu’s popularity, all challenge reason and/or human decency; still, propelled by love and concentrated empathy, parents do their best to educate and ease young minds.
Then, there are those things you’d bet future social security checks on that the kids you’ve incubated — and know better than they know themselves — innately, unequivocally, obviously, without a doubt, know. In other words, “non-discussions” relegated to the “Duh! Files” after our kids graduate preschool. For example: A knitting needle in your nose hurts. Sleeping pills and skydiving don’t mix. Leaving the house naked is unwise. Elvis was “The King.” DON’T TEXT WHILE DRIVING!
Incomprehensibly, the new (yet equally appalling) “DWI” is “DWT,” Driving While Texting. It’s akin to playing Russian roulette with a two-ton vehicle, drivers disengaging from their immediate surroundings. The Associated Press reported last spring that Tennessee ranked number two (38 percent) among states with the most DWTs, trailing only reckless South Carolina (40 percent).
I recently entered the Texting Twilight Zone while driving home from the Department of Motor Vehicles with my 15-year-old, who coincidently had just received his driver’s permit. Exiting I-65 in Brentwood, we pulled behind an SUV. The light turned green, but the SUV didn’t move, and neither did the driver. I pictured sudden narcolepsy (or worse) gripping the unresponsive driver, but then offered up a little “hello there” honk. The driver’s head popped up long enough to maintain 20 mph ... in traffic flowing 45 mph.
At a red light, I finally pulled alongside Mr. Slowpoke and caught him PDA-handed.
Before Logan could say, “Mom, don’t embarrass me,” the oblivious teenager looked up and, “Are you kidding?” flew out of my indignant mouth.
“Excuse me?” Dudley Do Wrong replied.
“NO! I won’t excuse you for TEXTING WHILE DRIVING! You’ve hardly glanced up for miles.” I exhaled. “You’re a hazard to innocent (read: more intelligent) drivers, who understand the importance of keeping their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel!” My tirade was intended for both the DWT-er and captive new driver sitting beside me.
“I wasn’t swerving,” explained the rocket scientist-to-be. That should qualify him for an auto insurance discount.
“There’s no defense for TEXTING WHILE DRIVING!” Except maybe you’re an imbecile, I muttered, as TDOT green-lighted his driving ... and mobile communications.
As I penned this very column, I learned of the horrific LA-area train wreck that left 25 dead, including the engineer who’d been texting at the time of the crash. Though the catastrophe triggered calls for state bans on mobile texting (duh!), will it take a plane crash to prevent pilots and air traffic controllers from the tragically obvious?
Legal website FindLaw.com reports almost 50 percent of drivers ages 18 - 24 cop to canoodling with keypads while driving. Teens with a license to maim and kill also admit that minding cell phone and Crackberry messages is their greatest driving distraction (followed by their emotional state and having friends in the car.)
Enforcement is the next hurdle, but the Students Against Drunk Driving/Mutual Liberty study should rev up parental engines. Interestingly, more than half of teens who claim their parents won’t punish them for driving infractions report they use cell phones while driving, compared to only 36 percent,who say their parents would penalize them. Faster than you could say “Metro Transit Authority,” I’d have the culprit’s car keys.
Not surprisingly, therefore, the study concludes the biggest influence on how teens drive is their parents. Short of publicly posting license plates of texters-on-the-go, parents need to intervene. Whether it’s “MAMs” (Mothers Against Morons) or perhaps the more PC “MAT(exter)s,” we must take action ... now! We need to lead by example and curb our cell phone use while driving and/or invest in earpieces for ourselves and our teen drivers.
But first, apparently we need to add DWT to our repertoire of “must-have” talks with our adolescents. Otherwise “duh” can become (deadly) duhangerous!