Friday, March 13, 2009

Are Mothers the Worst Drivers?

Remember a few years ago when Britney Spears was internationally maligned for driving with her baby son on her lap?

Imagine if she was breast feeding , talking on a cell phone time and touching up her makeup at the same.

Recently a 39 year old women was stopped by police for doing just that, (actually not sure she was doing her makeup) and has been charged with a first-degree misdemeanor of child endangering and minor misdemeanor for unlawfully restraining her child, who was reportedly younger than 2.

The women said that she had decided to feed her daughter while driving because she “does not deprive her child when she is hungry.”

A registered nurse and lactation consultant for Kettering Medical Center, responded to that by saying that it would have been in the best interest of the child if she had pulled over. "She should have put her baby first, and not put the baby in an unsafe situation. She should have been in her car seat."

"If the baby is not strapped in, that could cause terrible head injury," she said. "I don't have anything against breast feeding, but there has to be a better place to do it. (How about at the local shopping mall, where it seems to be some sort of fad).

Of course this story does not prove that women are worse drivers than men, but only proves that this particular women is an idiot. However research has shown that many women with children take unnecessary risks while driving to attend to them, which is the opposite of what they should be doing.

So this activity doesn’t speak to whether mothers are the worst drivers skill wise...but perhaps judgement wise. Your average Dad driver could care less if the kids are crying in the back seat...he has already learned to filter all that out. But mother’s have the instinct thing driving them to put the kids happiness ahead of the need to drive safely.

Lest you think I am picking on women in this piece, I just ran across a new study from England that showed women and gay men are likely to be the worst drivers. The research has revealed that both perform poorly in tasks involving navigation and spatial awareness when compared to heterosexual men.

Psychologists at Queen Mary, University of London, who conducted the study, believe their findings show that driving in a strange environment would be more difficult for gay men and women than for straight male motorists. Both tend to rely on local landmarks to get around, and are also slower to take in spatial information.

"Straight Men are good at using distal, or geometrical cues, to decide if they’re going north or south, for instance. They have a better basic sense of direction, but they can use local land marks as well. "Driving in a novel environment which is poor in cues is where these differences are likely to show up most. "Women and gay men are going to take a lot longer to reach their destination, making more errors, taking wrong turns etc. They need more rich local landmarks." (Like Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales, and Whole Foods).

Wow, I guess the good news about this research is that very few if any of the gay men I know will be tempted to breast feed while driving. Further, one of my favorite writers, David Sedaris, a Raleigh native, and gay, says he never drives because he is no good at it. But I digress...

In search of more proof that mothers are the worst drivers I looked at some actual crash statistics from Johns Hopkins Schools of Medicine and Public Health showing that female drivers are involved in slightly more crashes than men.

Although men are three times more likely than women to be killed in car crashes, researchers have found that, when the total numbers of crashes are considered, female drivers are involved in slightly more crashes than men. Overall, men were involved in 5.1 crashes per million miles

driven compared to 5.7 crashes for women, despite the fact that on average they drove 74 percent more miles per year than did women. BUT, since the men drove 74% more miles than the women, their raw number of accidents are higher than that of the women.

Now this is where it gets interesting. The statistics show that although teenage boys started off badly, with about 20 percent more crashes per mile driven than teenage girls, males and females between ages 20 and 35 were equally at risk of being involved in a crash, and after age 35 female drivers were at greater risk of a crash than their male counterparts, which is precisely the prime age of mothers with kids.

Is this the smoking gun? (or the slightly damp nursing bra?) Not sure, but it is sort of intuitive that breast feeding, talking on the phone and fussing with your make up when driving is just not a good idea and anyone doing that is going to be in more accidents, no matter what their sex or sexual persuasion might be.

BTW the statistics show that men are more likely to drive while intoxicated, not use a seatbelt, and exceed the speed limit. Duh

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Elephants Gone Wild

Kitty and I recently were paid a visit by our close mutual friend, David Beattie who is a safari guide based in Zimbabwe, Africa. Of the many stories he told us of his last year in the wilds was one about his good friend being killed by an elephant. The details of the mauling were disturbing enough, but according to him and as confirmed by a simple search of the news, elephants have sort of gone wild all over the world as of late...even in zoo environments.

As to why this has been happening, David put forth the theory that many of these mad elephants are essentially teenagers without adult supervision. He says that legal campaigns to separate elephant children from their parents have taken place world wide such that many elephants are orphans. (a truly frightening thought in the human world.) Even worse, since an elephant remembers just about everything...they are very upset at humans for having taken their parents. Sure enough, elephant researchers worldwide have come to similar conclusions.

Imagine a gang of teenagers, each weighing nearly 7 tons rampaging through the streets after a keg party goes bad. (Elephants actually do get drunk by eating fruit that has fermented on the ground and raiding stores of liquor and beer.) These wild eyed teen elephants are crushing cars, stomping innocent bystanders and and knocking houses down...literally. Since we don’t have wild herds of elephants in this country, the only thing that compares would be scenes in movies when aliens, (War of the Worlds) large apes, (like King Kong) or monstrous marshmallow men (Ghost Busters) reek havoc on Manhattan. Although exaggerated for the movies, this is the kind of fear and destruction these teen pachyderms can spread.

Fortunately it doesn’t take a battalion of National Guard to stop them. According to several elephant researchers, the only thing that works is “their mothers and their aunties” Heard that before boys?

According to one researcher: “Elephants are social creatures with defined roles for everyone in the herd. The herd is matriarchal, dominated by mothers and aunties. When the male babies grow to adolescence, they are kicked out of the herd, leaving their sisters and mother behind. Like most teenagers, they are relatively harmless, ripping up bushes and pushing down trees as a way of showing off to one another. But occasionally one of them will go rogue. Some social gene in their brain fails to kick in and they run amok, creating havoc.” (which has been proven to happen in the human teenager as well.)

“The usual remedy for a rogue elephant is to shoot it. (they do that to human teenagers frequently in the larger metro areas). Left to their own devices, they'll destroy things and corrupt their peers. One creative solution for a bachelor herd that has been corrupted by a rogue is to bus in an elephant mother. Inevitably, the mother reestablishes order in the herd.”

As another researcher stated: “As I reflect on the state of the American teenager hanging out in herds that roam our nation's malls and sneer at their elders, it seems to me that a good solution might be to parachute in a few mothers to reestablish order.”

Hmm...makes me this the same effect that has most football players greeting their Mom when put on camera? If hockey referees were matronly women, would there be the nightly display of violence that sport is known for? Do the mothers of rowdy boys hold the key to world peace? But I digress.

One thing is for sure...if you watch videos of teen elephants gone wild, you will understand the severity of the problem. All one has to do is Google “elephants gone wild” and you will be met with links to some of the most gruesome videos of any kind you will ever see. Elephants killing people and destroying property might be even worse than being hit by an alien death ray or being tossed like a rag doll by King Kong. These elephants don’t know when to quit. I have put a few of these links up for you viewing pleasure (not), but be forewarned, this is not for the faint of heart. Elephant kills man. Elephants kill many men and tear up buildings.

Why are elephants responding to all this human interaction and abuse in such a violent way? Perhaps they have no alternative. We treat them like cattle and swine yet with a mass of over 11 pounds elephant brains are larger than those of any other land animal, and although the largest whales have body masses twentyfold those of a typical elephant, whale brains are barely twice the mass of an elephant's. A wide variety of behaviors, including those associated with grief, making music, art, altruism, play, use of tools,compassion and self awareness evidence a highly intelligent species on par with the smartest primates. (the category humans belong).

As humans continue to kill the elephants parents and take away their habitat, perhaps they should remember the immortal words of Peter Finch in the film “Network”, when he proclaimed “we are human beings (in this case, elephants) and we are mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore”.

When you think about it, humans send our teenagers to fight our wars....maybe that’s what the elephants are doing.