A fact of modern life is that most Americans live in the suburbs and commute by car to work.
And Americans, ever resourceful, apparently have decided that there's no point in wasting all that drive time simply driving, when much more than connecting points A and B can be achieved if we just put our minds to it.In California, the state that introduced us to freeways (and freeway shootings), commuters are adapting creatively to the unprecedented number of hours they must spend each day behind the wheel.
According to the California Office of Traffic Safety reports, drivers floss their teeth, shave, apply makeup, knot their ties, blow their hair dry. They read, they eat, they set up miniature offices in their passenger seats by strapping in fax and copy machines, even laptop computers.
If they are on the way from the office to the gym or the softball diamond before heading home, they'll change clothes. A woman was reported to have changed her pantyhose while driving on a California freeway - presumably, but not necessarily, one-handed, a feat that boggles the imagination - and when taken to task, tried to justify her actions by saying she wasn't driving nearly as crazily as the truckers in the next lane who were watching her.
Lately, says Ray Biancalana, assistant director of the California Office of Traffic Safety, Golden State drivers are buying and using cute little gadgets that plug into their car cigarette lighters - microwave ovens, portable televisions, even tiny washing machines.
While most of the more creative behind-the-wheel behavior has yet to arrive in Utah, local drivers are starting to pick up on some commuter trends, said state Highway Patrol spokesman Gary Whitney.
Here, drivers eat, read or talk on their car telephones, which "can be used very safely - if people pull off the road and use them," Whitney said.
California has mounted a campaign to tell motorists they should do nothing but drive when they're behind the wheel. Other states have jumped on the bandwagon as word of the safety program has spread throughout the country, Biancalana said.
No similar formal public education program is contemplated for Utah, Whitney said. However, he said, local drivers should know that while there aren't any specific laws against putting on makeup or reading while motoring, citations are possible.
"People involved in accidents won't admit they were doing something stupid like reading or looking in the mirror while they are going down the road, so unless the officer actually observes it, they're hard to catch," Whitney admitted.
But if they are caught, the resultant charge will be reckless driving, he said.