Thursday, June 20, 2013

New Zealand: Mult-tasking Can Lead to Irreversible Results, Particularly When Driving

Two tourists, Onur Gulmez, 28, from Germany and Paul Joubert, 23, from France, were killed in a head-on collision on State Highway 6 near Rai Valley in December 2012.

The pair had met in Wellington, and along with German tourist, Kathrin Bongard, who survived, were driving to Nelson in Gulmez's vehicle.

According to coroner Tim Scott, at an inquest earlier this week, evidence suggests that Gulmez was getting ready to eat a can of spaghetti while behind the wheel, despite hazardous road and weather conditions.

Prior to the head-on collision of Gulmez's  Mitsubishi station-wagon with a "ute," or sports-utility vehicle (SUV), Gulmez appeared to zigzag before the collision. Both vehicles were traveling at approximately 85 kmh (53 mph) at the time.

Police found evidence of spaghetti and sauce on the steering wheel and on Gulmez, although he had not consumed any of it.

Police believe that Gulmez may have either been tired, lost control because of running over a rough bit of road or was distracted as he began to eat the spaghetti.

COMMENT: In his findings into the deaths of Gulmez and Joubert, Scott had concluded that he did not believe fatigue caused the crash, but rather the collision was caused by Gulmez not being a particularly good driver and the fact that he was distracted by attempting to eat a can of spaghetti while behind the wheel of a car.

The tires of Gulmez's vehicle were also severely worn and may well have disqualified the car from passing a vehicular safety inspection, and perhaps even contributed to the "accident."

As a footnote to this tragic and avoidable loss of life, I am not a particular fan of multitasking, although I'm sure many of our readers are. Perhaps it is because I'm left-handed or because I am most focused on one activity at a time.

The above statement is not to question the simultaneous skills of gifted people who can perform a multitude of tasks at one time, but doing so behind the wheel of an automobile in bad weather can only be described as unwise.

As with any activity that poses a risk to life and limp, it would have been entirely appropriate for Joubert or Bongard, having observed Gulmez's deficient driving skills and preoccupation with the spaghetti, to offer to drive.

Often, though, as in the case of an intoxicated driver, we don't intervene because we don't want to offend anyone, yet life-safety trumps all other considerations. It is far better to have an argument than to die, as occurred in this case.