Let’s talk driving distractions.
Cell phones. CDs. Coffee. Cheeseburgers. Lipstick. Electric razors. Newspapers. Each of these things, if used while driving, will sap at least some of your attention from the road ahead. You’ll get dirty looks from other drivers if spotted talking on your phone in traffic. In some places, you’d get pulled over.
But nobody looks twice or says anything about the cute kids strapped into their seats in the back of the car.
They might be the biggest distraction of all.
Although my two daughters, 19 months and 4, have been in the car with me countless times, it wasn’t until a recent trip on some Washington County backroads that I realized how much attention they can command.
The backseat of our little hatchback is littered with toys, books and dolls, which in the past have entertained the youngsters just fine. Half the time they ignore the toys and high-five each other for 10 miles. My wife is usually there to help if something gets dropped. I can focus on the road just fine.
But now the youngest is more talkative and the oldest is more opinionated. Thus begins the struggle for music control. And that clash is hard to ignore.
On this particular roadtrip, the objects of competing interests were the Beatles’ “She Loves You,” as covered by Alvin and the Chipmunks, and “Do Ya” from local band The Owls.
The Chipmunks were on first, and the toddler quickly decided she wasn’t digging Alvin’s voice. She strianed against her shoulder straps in protest. “Turn, turn, turn,” she squealed, meaning “It’s my turn.”
When the song was over, we put on her choice. The oldest crossed her arms and huffed, looked down and pouted. After a minute or so, she started in with “It’s my turn now.”
For some reason we thought the incident might be a good lesson in sharing, so we repeated the cycle a few more times. Nerves frayed. We had meltdown. We turned off the music.
During most of the exchange I kept looking in the rearview to see what each was doing. I didn’t swerve or come close to hitting anything, but I certainly wasn’t as focused as a driver should be. I kept hearing Chipmunks in my head.
Thankfully, a couple of hot air balloons were in the sky up ahead, and tranquility prevailed.
Maybe next time we’ll bring the portable CD player. But they’d probably fight over that, too.
Guest poster Chris is a news editor at StarTribune.com and contributor to the Cribsheet blog.