It seems to columnist Loretta Laroche that common sense done a disappearing act. She marvels at the many studies that have led to creation of slogans intended to minimize the chances of pedestrian accidents and other mishaps. Many of those slogans convey things parents used to tell us over and over, she says.
The federal government reported last week that pedestrian deaths have increased while traffic-related deaths continue to decline. This follows on the heels of a study done last summer in Seattle that discovered that an increasing number of pedestrians are hurt or killed due to distractions such as cellphones, texting and listening to music.
Once again, I am blown away by what I call “the death of the obvious.” Thousands of dollars were more than likely spent on something you would think anyone with an ounce of common sense would know.
But therein lies the problem. Common sense has virtually disappeared, and in its place are studies whose outcomes create slogans that are placed on billboards, crosswalks, bumper stickers, coffee cups and God knows where else.
One of the researchers suggested putting signs at crosswalks that say “put down your cellphone.” So now, instead of not texting or talking, you have to look around to see what the signs say.
I must be getting jaded and cynical, because I’m afraid we’re collectively losing our ability to be responsible for our behavior.
There are slogans conveying all sorts of things parents would remind us of over and over:
“Look both ways when you cross the street.”
“Don’t drink that yet. It’s too hot.”
“Don’t talk with your mouth full.”
“Watch the road when you’re driving.”
And the constant reminder to “BE CAREFUL.”
Where did those words go? Parents today are often doing the same things as their children when it comes to smartphones and such, so how can they model otherwise? How many of them are driving, drinking coffee and talking on their cellphone?
Now that would be an interesting research project. Caution and responsibility for one’s physical and mental well-being have been exchanged for the need to attend to the sound of the cellphone ringing or the bleep of a text coming through. So you’re walking across the street, the phone rings and you have to see who it is. Your brain gets a dopamine squirt and you forget where you are. Whoosh, you’re lying on a gurney in the emergency room (if you’re lucky).
Distraction is fast becoming the new addiction. Not paying attention is creating losses in productivity, a decline in empathy, a reduction in face-to-face conversations, and a loss of lives.
Will we finally figure out that we really have to focus on what we’re doing? I hope so, or another study will be initiated to see how many people died looking at signs to keep them safe.
Author, humorist, PBS star and Fortune 500 trainer Loretta LaRoche lives in Plymouth, Mass. To share your pet peeves, questions or comments, write to The Humor Potential, 50 Court St., Plymouth, MA 02360. Email her, visit her website at www.stressed.com or call 800-998-2324.