Imagine someone on the highway cuts you off without signaling.
Your ire raised, you might stew about it, you might react aggressively, perhaps even affecting your driving practices, or you might be the bigger person, be thankful that you are a defensive driver, and let it go.
Now re-imagine this same scenario, but this time, non-signaler who cut you off flashes a bright red “SORRY” sign from his back window, like the one seen below.
The makers of this product would have you believe that the low-tech apology, available for $26 plus postage and handling, would abate the situation. Specifically, the Thank You and Sorry sign will flash a green “Thank You” from your rear window 10 times, allowing you to show your appreciation for others’ courtesy, or display your remorse for a driving error by flashing a bright orange “Sorry” 10 times.
I asked Dr. Leon James (“Dr. Driving”), a Professor of Psychology at the University of Hawaii who has written books and articles on driving psychology, for a professional’s take on the product.
“I’ve been asked by two or three other businesses marketing vehicle flash signs of various types,” he responded. “My answer to your question is that no research is available on making a decision. I predict that some drivers will like it and use it, others will not. One conflict I have about it is that a certain percentage of people will misuse any kind of communication system available and will use it to insult, retaliate, and intimidate other drivers.”
Of course, a real scientist won’t just shoot off his mouth; smartly, they leave that nincompoops like columnists. So catch this exhaust–my reaction would certainly be something like, “oh, you can turn on the SORRY sign, but you can’t use your $%&^% SIGNAL in the first place?!”
Sorry, Thank You and Sorry, but I’m thinking this gadget and its ilk are doomed to have the opposite effect of the intended purpose (thus will INCITE road rage).
DO WE NEED MORE DISTRACTIONS?
It’s been shown in studies that taking your attention off the road–whether obvious idiocy like texting while driving, to even supposedly okay distractions, like talking via a Bluetooth speaker system–can contribute to accidents. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, “20 percent of injury crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving.”
The remote control for the Thank You and Sorry sign basically looks like a small garage door opener, with two buttons small buttons (T for “thank you” and s for “sorry,” naturally. So to operate it–and imagine the consumer doing so while under the stress of just having barely avoiding disaster after accidentally making a bad lane change–the driver needs to find he’s placed the control, find the right button, and let the signal fly. Then he’ll undoubtedly want to look through his rear-view mirror to gauge the other driver’s reaction.
If it’s not a recipe for disaster, it’s perhaps the icing on the cake of carelessness.
Look–I’m a huge admirer of entrepreneurs, if my semi-regular pieces on such in The Daily Sound weren’t a clue. Reaching for the million-dollar idea through schlocky YouTube videos and gaudily flashy, 1999-worthy Web sites is very cool in my book. In fact, when I finally bring my “dog dish that looks like a toilet” idea* to market, I’m going to use www.thankyouandsorry.com as my template–I think it perfectly captures the sensibilities inherent in “As Seen on TV”-style junk products.
But this isn’t about mere taste or your opinion on what’s funny. At best, it will amuse some fellow drivers and irritate others. At worst, it’s a distraction from driving better in the first place–an excuse to drive poorly, potentially contributing to accidents, because, hey, you can always apologize for it later.
Sorry. No thank you.
*Don’t all rush to manufacture yours first, now.