Distracted Driving: IED of the Brain

By Vijay Dixit
Originally published in Eden Prairie News · Thursday, January 28, 2016

Analogy is an extremely useful learning tool. Personally I find it of great value when I am asked to expound on tough concepts or phenomena for wide audiences. Poets and authors have used similes and metaphors to make their writing talk. No wonder we frequently hear comments like a picture is better than a thousand words. A physical object can communicate much more than just talking about it.

So when I sat down to write my first article of the year, I chose a metaphor to make a case against distracted driving with a message that, hopefully, will stick.

The deadly battlefield device called Improvised Explosive Device (IED) has become part of our day-to-day vocabulary, thanks to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. It struck me that distracted driving, a human behavior, somehow demonstrates traits of an IED, a physical object. The more I thought about it, the more convincing it got.

I noticed a stark resemblance between distracted driving and an IED. Both show their ugly heads on a road, producing lifelong struggles not only for individuals but also for their families and loved ones. I also found a distinctive difference between the two. While IED hides under a road on a conventional battlefield, distracted driving behavior is tucked deep inside the human mind.

Lets us continue with more similarities. Readers, please ponder over the following:

  1. The IED as well as the distracted driving behavior, both are the creations of an intelligent brain.
  2. Both remain dormant on the road only to be triggered by a vehicle, be it a heavily armored Humvee or a regular family car.
  3. In both cases, early detection and timely corrective action by the driver can either totally arrest or significantly minimize the fury of an emerging catastrophe.
  4. Just as quickly disarming or driving around the IED after its detection is critical, first signs of a distracted driving behavior requires instant action by the driver to avoid a crash.
  5. Of course, both cause traumatic injuries and fatalities.

I believe after reading the above, readers will find justification in my radical choice of the title.

Sadly, a common perception prevalent among drivers is that distraction only happens to someone else and not to them. Reality is totally different. Everyone in the country who drives a vehicle is exposed to the risk of driver distraction. Even those who claim to be highly disciplined drivers have a 50 percent probability of getting into a crash. Don’t forget that an expert driver drives in the company of novice or distracted drivers around them.

Our daughter Shreya was an excellent driver. But became a victim. At the time of her fatal crash she was not even driving; she was just a passenger.

Believe me, it can happen to anyone.

Vijay Dixit of Eden Prairie is chairman of the Shreya R. Dixit Memorial Foundation. He can be reached at [sf_email]Vijay@shreyadixit.org[/sf_email].