A trip down memory-loss lane

Distraction can cause forgetfulness, or even worse, forgetfulness 

David Matthews / November 04, 2016
David Matthews

Memory blanks

Earlier this year, the Automobile Association in England discovered an alarming phenomenon: More than one in seven drivers regularly experiences memory gaps while behind the wheel.

Researchers polled more than 27,000 drivers and found that 15% were “quite often or very often” unable to remember the past few moments of their drive.

And it is not even older drivers who are the biggest culprits. The worst-affected age group was 25- to 34-year-olds, with 24% admitting to zoning out, and 18- to 24-year olds following close behind at 21%.

The AA speculates that cell phone use, conversations with passengers, listening to the radio or even daydreaming are the main causes for the loss of concentration, which tends to worsen when drivers are near the end of their journey.

The most focused group was actually drivers 65 and over, with only 9% admitting to memory gaps, at least as far as they can remember.

Ferry tales

Turns out that drivers not only suffer from memory loss when they are driving, but also when they are parking.

Washington State Ferries report that more and more people are driving their cars or riding their bicycles onto ferries and then accidentally leaving them behind when they reach their destination.

In the last several years, 35 bikes and seven cars have been left onboard a ferry. How does someone forget their vehicle on a boat? Officials said it is often the commuter who deviates from their usual routine, driving onto the ferry when they normally walk. They get distracted with their phone or talking to other passengers and just walk off the ferry like usual.

Whatever the reason, it is a costly mistake. When a vehicle is found abandoned, the ferry administrators have to assume that a passenger may have gone overboard. That means the State Patrol and the Coast Guard have to begin emergency air and water searches, which typically costs around $10,000.

Lost and found

Losing a car does not seem so bad when you consider that a town in England managed to lose an entire street.

When construction began this summer to convert a townhouse in Stockton into luxury offices, workers unearthed a 250-year-old street underground, complete with tiny homes and subterranean tunnels.

The cobweb-covered rooms are very small with low ceilings. They have wooden doors and window frames, recessed areas to hold candles, storage rooms, and even animal enclosures.

It appears that there used to be street-level access and that the tunnels linked the homes to other parts of town.

Local historians speculate that the street beneath the street was perhaps used as housing for domestic servants who worked in the luxurious townhouses above, which used to be known as Paradise Row.


Whether it was forgotten or simply abandoned, a Geo Metro parked in Vancouver this past winter had residents wishing they could forget about it, too.

The car sat on a residential street near the heart of downtown Vancouver for months, and it was not a pretty sight. Splashed with graffiti, with four flat tires and the side mirrors knocked off, the derelict hatchback even had a thick fungus growing all over the steering wheel.

Residents complained to the city many times, asking for the eyesore to be removed, particularly since it was taking up one of the rare parking spots in the neighborhood.

The city could not do anything at first because there are no parking restrictions in the area, the vehicle was not threatening public safety, and the absent owner was maintaining the car’s insurance.

Finally this summer, an abandoned vehicles bylaw was discovered that would allow the city to ticket and eventually tow the mobile petri dish, which had now been festering for over six months.

But when a bylaw officer showed up to issue the ticket, the vehicle was gone. Residents suspect that the car had become so disgusting, it just rolled away on its own.

Memory blanks

And finally, the Automobile Association in England has discovered that more than one in seven drivers regularly experiences memory gaps while … wait, did I say that already?

About the Author

Matthews has been chronicling the unexpectedly humorous side of transportation news since 2000. The stories are all true.

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