Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Useless Lists Five Years Later

Not only do I have yet another example of craptastic reporting, but this time it's accompanied by additional craptastic reporting which only serves to EXPAND on the original report of crap. And I'm a little surprised by this one. I can't quite figure out the appeal which caused multiple news outlet sources to run with it. Maybe because it's quirky. (Actually, it doesn't matter what it is because it's crap. Quirky, quirky crap.)

The story starts out like this: "Generic website (because they made me take down their link because their story sucks) has compiled a list of the 10 most dangerous foods to eat while driving. The site notes that eating distracts you from driving and that distracted drivers are one of the leading causes of accidents." First of all, what am I? Four? Eating distracts you. Distracted drivers crash. Therefore, eating is a distraction. You will crash. Morons.

But here's the odd part:  That list was originally posted in 2004! What the hell? FIVE years later and someone finally reads it and thinks, "Hey! Eating is a distraction. I should let everyone know this. But I won't let them know that it was written five years ago!" I'm so confused.

The article even cites a 2001 study that Exxon did. I don't know about you, but I prefer any study that has to do with human behavior to be relatively recent. Eight years ago is not relatively recent. Do I behave the same way that I did eight years ago? Not so much. (I'm a little more shout-y these days.) Anything that is citing 8 year old research I'm going to question. But that's just because I'm not a member of the mainstream media, which sort of explains why they didn't question anything.

US News and World Report, UPI.com (with their "100 years of journalistic excellence". An interesting claim for a dot-com.), the Chicago Tribune, and the list goes on and on. Not ONE of them mentions that the list was compiled FIVE years ago. Nope. They're all just churning it out like it's brand new.
And almost every article on this particular five year old topic (including the original one over at Insurance.com!) misstates the findings of some study that was done. The study says that "80 percent of...rear-end crashes...and 42% of near-crashes" are due to distracted driving. Eating while driving is considered a distraction. Therefore, the conclusion that these morons came to is that 80 percent of crashes are due to eating while driving. In fact, over at the
New York Daily News, they went with the headline "Eating while driving causes 80% of all car accidents, study shows". Good Lord, you'd have to be an English language learner on your first day over there at the News in order to come up with that headline.
Now while the Insurance.com article doesn't come right out and state that incorrect conclusion, the whole article is centered around food and eating while driving, leading one to assume that's the connection. Why the need to lead folks astray for this particular issue, I have no idea. I can't even fathom one. Well, I can't even fathom one OTHER THAN idiocy. But as long as I'm on the subject of the 10 Most Dangerous Foods to Eat While Driving, let's look at their list of those 10 foods that will kill you in your car.

Number one is coffee. You know, because it's hot and it can spill and burn your grundle. No one likes a burnt grundle on their morning commute. Or anytime, really. But coffee? VERY dangerous to drive with. Then the list starts to get a little wacky.

Hot soup. What the hell? Who is eating soup whilst they're driving? Are we talking broth here? If we are, then let me amend that to: Who is drinking broth whilst they're driving? Chicken Soup for the Distracted Driver's Soul? I don't get it. (What if they mean udon noodle soup? Folks with a steaming hot bowl and a pair of chopsticks just barreling down the freeway at 80mph. That's not distracted driving, that's asinine.)

Tacos. Insurance.com says that "Any food that can disassemble itself will leave your car looking like a salad bar." I'll concur.

Chili Dogs and burgers. Anything with the greasy, slop factor can be a distraction. One bite and everything just ends up coming out the other end (which is actually the case anatomically with a lot of fast food).

Barbecued food. This has been altered in other articles to read "Ribs and wings". Who is driving along with a rack of ribs on the dash? But here's their rationale: "The sauce may be great, but if you have to lick your fingers, the sauce will end up on whatever you touch – and that wheel will be tough to grip." Yeah, you know what else makes the wheel tough to grip? Eating ribs! Usually those take TWO hands!

Fried chicken. Really? You folks just can't wait until you get that bucket from the Kentucky Colonel home,eh? You have to dive right in while you're stopped at that light? When do you squeeze in the corn on the cob and the baked beans? Metering ramps? Toll plazas?

Jelly donuts. Sure, I suppose the center could squirt out, but only if you were eating a jelly donut that wasn't one of the crappy ones that are being sold everywhere lately. There's barely a spit of goo in the middle of them and they're FAR from messy. I'm not saying it's OK to eat one while you're driving, I'm just saying that it's not like eating those ribs or anything.

Soft drinks. They say that they can spill (true) and that sometimes the carbonated fizz can go in our noses. Wow. These folks must try to anticipate every aspect of every potential disaster out there and then over-prepare for it. Me? I'm OK with the "fizz risk". I'll chance it. I'm crazy like that.

Chocolate. Because it's melt-y.

WHO is eating this stuff in their car? Coffee and soda are about the only legitimate ones on there. Well, the dogs, burgers and tacos are definitely all items that are eaten in the car by many drivers. But give me a break with the soup and the ribs! Those are not vehicle fare! If they're going to include those, then there's definitely a few that they left off of their list. Allow me..

Spaghetti and meatballs! Garlic bread on the side, optional.

Cracked crab/lobster. You'll have to crack it yourself, but you could probably just put it underneath the gas pedal and then step on it to crack them open. Use your drink holder as a container for melted butter and then dunk it in there.

Peel and eat shrimp. Use another cup holder for the cocktail sauce. Arrange the lemon wedges on top of your steering wheel for easy access.

Freshly sliced watermelon. Don't slice this ahead of time. Slice it in your car, on the dashboard. If you're doing this while stopped at a light, be friendly and offer some to the drivers in the lanes next to you.

Fondue! A nice big boiling pot of cheese or hot oil, various skewers with which to spear the cubed bread and assorted meats and you've got yourself a disaster that's just waiting in the wings. Fondue while driving WILL distract you.

Well? Five years after the fact, do you feel safer now? I can't really say that I do. I'm a little bit more irritated, I'm slightly more amused, but safer? Not so much.

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