Q. With staggering statistics like people who are using their cell phones while driving are four times more likely to crash, and people who are texting while driving are ten times more likely to crash, distracted driving is a serious problem.
Why do you think people like Sarah in Left Neglected continue to drive distractedly?
A. This is a great question, one I’ve posed to my family and friends and readers on Facebook. Here are some of the answers I heard:
Q. If you love someone, what’s the best way to talk to him or her about changing dangerous behavior like texting while driving?
A. I think education is the key. Most people have only a vague understanding of how dangerous it is to use a cell phone while driving. Make this understanding real and specific by learning the facts–
And then layer a human story onto this knowledge. Make it emotional. See and hear some the faces and lives those statistics represent by sharing a link to a video showing mothers and fathers, daughters and sons talking about loved ones killed by a distracted driver. Then imagine your own mother or father, daughter or son in place of the person you just watched. That would do it for me.
Q. Where did you get the inspiration for including a distracted driving incident in the book?
A. LEFT NEGLECTED is a book about a woman with Left Neglect, a bizarre brain condition that causes her to ignore the left side of everything, including her own left arm and leg. On a grander scale, it’s about what we pay attention to and what we ignore in ourselves, in our relationships, and in the world around us. So it made perfect sense that the main character, Sarah, would cause her own Neglect by searching for a number on her cell phone, and hence neglecting to pay attention to the road, while driving.
I think distracted driving is the cultural epidemic of the 21st century. EVERYONE seems to “talk and drive” or “text and drive” and think it’s okay. We don’t have enough time in the day to do all that we need to accomplish, and we feel we can’t afford to “waste time” by simply just driving when we’re in the car.
I can imagine that someday, hopefully soon, we’ll all say, “Remember when we used to talk on cell phones and text while driving? Can you believe we did that?”
Q. What do you hope readers learn from your book?
A. I hope readers think of Sarah the next time they’re tempted to text or make a call while driving—and choose to ignore their phones, or find a technological solution to help.
Q. Do you believe that technology can actually help people avoid the temptation to use their cell phones while driving?
A. While technology is what brought this dangerous distraction into our cars, it can also be the very thing that gets it out. Smart phone apps that hold all incoming and outgoing calls, texts, and emails while you’re driving help to remove the temptation.
About Lisa Genova:
Lisa Genova graduated valedictorian from Bates College with a degree in Biopsychology and holds a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Harvard University. She is a member of the Dementia Advocacy, Support Network International and DementiaUSA and is an online columnist for the National Alzheimer's association. She lives with her husband and two children in Cape Cod. She is also the author of of the New York Times bestselling novel, Still Alice.
More About Left Neglected:
Sarah Nickerson is like any other career-driven supermom in Welmont, the affluent Boston suburb where she leads a hectic but charmed life with her husband Bob, faithful nanny, and three children—Lucy, Charlie, and nine-month-old Linus.
Between recruiting the best and brightest minds as the vice president of human resources at Berkley Consulting; shuttling the kids to soccer, day care, and piano lessons; convincing her son's teacher that he may not, in fact, have ADD; and making it home in time for dinner, it's a wonder this over-scheduled, over-achieving Harvard graduate has time to breathe.
A self-confessed balloon about to burst, Sarah miraculously manages every minute of her life like an air traffic controller. Until one fateful day, while driving to work and trying to make a phone call, she looks away from the road for one second too long. In the blink of an eye, all the rapidly moving parts of her jam-packed life come to a screeching halt.
A traumatic brain injury completely erases the left side of her world, and for once, Sarah relinquishes control to those around her, including her formerly absent mother. Without the ability to even floss her own teeth, she struggles to find answers about her past and her uncertain future.
Now, as she wills herself to regain her independence and heal, Sarah must learn that her real destiny—her new, true life—may in fact lie far from the world of conference calls and spreadsheets. And that a happiness and peace greater than all the success in the world is close within reach, if only she slows down long enough to notice.
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