Harry Potter and the Menace to Navigation

Just when the Pokemon Go craze has died down, Niantic had to release Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. And just like that, my drive to and from work is dangerous again. Look, I have nothing against these cellphone games – or “free-to-play, location-based augmented reality games” – but I can’t stand the way it influences people’s driving. Rush hour traffic in Metro Detroit is bad enough without a bunch of yahoos suddenly slamming on their brakes to spin a wheel for gifts or whatever the heck it is they do. My days are stressful enough without all that.

Whew! I’m glad I got that off my chest… but it doesn’t make me feel any better.

Look, I totally realize that I’m coming off as a grumpy old man here. (And probably sounding more and more like Stuart Sweet.) I don’t mean to be that way. My kids and their cousins love playing Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, and I even drive them around to various “stops” so they collect their potions, spells, and whatever else it is they get. The thing is, I’m not playing the game while I’m driving, and I don’t think anyone else should either.

Like I mentioned above, one of the biggest problems is Harry Potter players slamming on their brakes to pick up items. They do this without any regard for who’s driving behind them. For me, it’s a good reminder to always keep a couple car lengths between me and the driver in front of me. That usually gives me enough time to stop or slow down when the “wizard” in front of me suddenly decides to do something crazy. This isn’t the only issue, though.

While I have some amount of control over running into the driver in front me, the rear of my vehicle is completely exposed. I simply cannot stop some “Hogwarts hopeful” from rear-ending me because they were too busy looking at their phone when their eyes should’ve been on the road. There’s absolutely nothing I can do to prevent that from happening and frankly, that’s the bigger fear. Distracted driving has been a thing since the advent of cell phones and these cell phone games just make it worse.

After nearly crashing into a suspected Harry Potter player today, I got to thinking about distracted driving. Sure, I can grouse and grumble about the game as much as I want, but there are other things that draw drivers’ attention from the road. I remember one time where I almost swerved off the road because I was too busy trying to change the radio station after Chris de Burgh’s “Lady in Red” came on. If there’s a more torturous song, I haven’t heard it. (Yes, I just dated myself with that 1980s song reference.)

The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that many cases of distracted driving involve a “device” of some kind. (For me, it was the foolish notion of stopping on a soft rock radio station.) These days, it might be someone cycling through the playlist on their cellphone. Bluetooth capabilities are supposed to make things easier, not harder or more reckless! My advice: get a good vehicle Bluetooth adapter and simply stream your playlist through it. Don’t touch your phone until you get to where you’re going.

Here’s another safe driving tip in the digital age: keep both hands on the wheel. I already know what you’re thinking: “How am I gonna talk on my phone if I don’t have one hand free?” Well, the idealist in me would say that you shouldn’t be talking on your phone when you’re driving. The realist inside me know that you will, so I would recommend something like a cup holder phone mount. This will hold your phone right up there so you can talk and drive while keeping your hands at the “10 and two,” just like we learned in driver’s training.

If the cup mount’s not long enough to reach you, there’s something else that can hold your cell phone for you. It’s a vent-mounted quick car charger. Look, even if your phone doesn’t have Qi wireless charging, this thing can still do you some good. Just plug it into your AC/heating vents and its “arms” grab your phone to secure it into place. If you have to talk to someone while you drive, just quickly punch them into speaker mode then put both hands back on the wheel.

Look at that! I started out complaining about the Harry Potter game and now I’m talking products. I’m actually doing it more to help keep the roads safe than I am to make a sale. The life you save might be my own and all that. So, along those lines, I guess this is the part where I tell you that all this great stuff and more is available when you shop Solid Signal.