Gridlock Guy: Road trips are made for bonding, taking in scenery

When it comes to automobiles I’m a huge fan of technological advancements. Since the birth of the car to present day, technology has made our driving experience infinitely better.

From power windows, power locks and power steering to navigation systems, heated seats and intermittent windshield wipers the technological advances in the automotive world are immeasurable.

However, there is one new piece of technology in cars, trucks and SUVs these days that I am not a fan of — entertainment systems for children.

Everywhere I look, toddlers to teens seem to be transfixed to digital screens inside automobiles. Last week I ran into some friends and their kids in a mall parking lot. Their two children were in the back seat. During the 10 minutes my wife and I were talking to their parents the kids didn’t look up from their little TV screens. They were transfixed. We were invisible.

Now, granted, I don’t have children yet (emphasis on yet for my mother), and I’m sure it’s a great way to keep kids occupied on long trips, but in these hectic times it seems to me that driving in cars with your kids seems like a perfect time for parent/child bonding.

Not to sound like a grumpy old man, but when I was a kid riding in the car with my parents I didn’t have any fancy contraptions to keep me occupied. On long trips I read books, but otherwise my parents and I spent that time talking to each other or playing games like 20-questions, the license plate game or I Spy to help pass the time.

On occasion I was allowed toys in the car.

“Sometimes you played with Matchbox cars and superhero figures when you were little,” said Alyce Arum, my aforementioned mother.

When my little brother came along technology had reached the digital age.

“Richard (my brother) had his Nintendo Gameboy to keep him busy,” Mrs. Arum said.

I had no such digital devices, and I think I’m better for it. I can remember going to my grandmother’s house in Long Island. Even at a very early age I knew the exact route we needed to take to get there. Route 8 to Interstate 84 to Interstate 684 to the Hutcheson River Parkway. I knew every turn, every unique landmark and every rest area.

With my eyes not glued to a screen I was able to see the beautiful falls colors, the bright green of spring or the sandy, salty, snowy, icy mess of winter.

Perhaps I’m way off base on this. Maybe kids and digital screens are inseparable these days. From TVs, computers, tablets and smart phones there probably aren’t many children that aren’t transfixed to screens every day, all day.

Maybe I’m just behind the times. It wouldn’t be the first time.