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A new, and dangerous, type of distracted driver

(iStock Photo)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – You see them on the road every day — people fiddling with phones, food, makeup and a lot of other stuff while behind the wheel.

But what’s the worst kind of behaviour bad drivers are engaging in?

Maybe it’s not so much the habits themselves as the attitude that goes along with them.

“We talk a lot about driver distraction, but what I’m talking about is entitled driving,” says Anne Kingston, senior writer for Maclean’s.

“Drivers are no longer taking the ‘social contract’ seriously, adopting a ‘me first’ attitude on the roads that includes distracted driving but is far, far more encompassing than that.”

In this week’s issue, Kingston speaks with everyone from traffic cops to driving instructors about the “self-preoccupied driver in a steel-and-glass bubble, oblivious to the outside world.”

“For instance, I talked to a couple of officers out west about people who were reading novels while driving, putting makeup on, actually eating from a plate or bowl on their lap while using cutlery, even having sex while driving. Maybe that’s not too strange, but it’s pretty distracting,” she laughs.

Who are the worst offenders? Kingston says it’s hard to pin the blame on a particular demographic.

“Studies suggest that people who drive larger cars tend to feel more protected and sometimes that leads to a sense of false security that allows people to take risks or be more aggressive.”

There’s also something called the “important driver syndrome” which is a sense that if you are in a more expensive car you can take liberties that drivers of less expensive cars shouldn’t be able to take.

“What’s interesting is that we have moved away from the perception that teenage boys in souped cars are the menace on the road to the middle-aged woman in the black luxury SUV being the problem,” Kingston tells NEWS 1130.

One of the most disturbing manifestations of the “me first” attitude may be the increasing number of drivers who ignore the rules around emergency vehicles.

“They’re not moving aside, which is the decent, ethical and legal thing to do. This is something police are actually talking about. It’s common that people use an approaching emergency vehicle even to get ahead on the road. It staggers the imagination.”

Kingston feels there needs to be a widespread change in attitude before we see things improve on the road.

“People use the analogy of the stigma that arose over impaired driving, but that took decades to happen. There has to be a recognition that multi-tasking is a myth in that driving is a full time occupation. The idea that we can do several things while driving is delusional.”

Kingston points out that part of being a good citizen is being a good driver.