Lileks: Driving & sneezing: The next epidemic

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 17, 2012 - 4:07 PM

Men's Health, a magazine whose covers always have a guy who looks tickled beyond measure over his abdominal muscles, has named St. Paul the safest city for driving in America.

Minneapolis is No. 20, which makes no sense.

Maybe Minneapolis drivers get confused in St. Paul -- this road is not aligned exactly with the points of the compass! I must panic and accelerate! Or perhaps it's just another survey that proves how much magazines like rankings, because we mention them here, and then everyone in St. Paul buys Men's Health and walks around lifting up his shirt, grinning and saying, GET RIPPED FOR SUMMER NOW, even though that doesn't mean "totally start drinking Schmidt's at noon on Friday."

The survey included the usual signs of safety, like wearing seat belts and not having so many accidents that you switched to contacts because the airbag kept popping the lenses out of your glasses.

It included cellphone use, which people lie about. A lot. You'll never hear anyone confess, "Sure, sometimes I talk on the phone while driving, if my cigarette hand's free," because that's admitting two sins at once.

We can all admit it's distracting, if you're looking at the screen and steering with your knees and stabbing OMG, SHE DID NOT SAY THAT! with your pinky-nail. But with a hands-free device, it's doable.

What's worse? Sneezing.

Or so the news suggests. Last week in Winona, a fellow sneezed, his foot shot out and punched the accelerator, which made him drive into a pole and snap a cable, which jumped up and sliced a power line. So the story said, anyway.

I've never had a full-body extend-o-spasm like that, and even if my leg did shoot out with uncontrollable force, it would take a five-second sneeze to make a Honda go that fast, and by then you've passed out from oxygen deprivation and cardiac arrest.

But let's say that is what happened. Then people with colds should not drive.

If you feel a sneeze coming on, pull over to the shoulder and shut off the car and throw the keys out the window until the symptoms abate.

It's the only way to be safe.

jlileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858

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