Advice for Everyone on Distracted Driving
Remember the first time you started a car and put your hands on the steering wheel? What a feeling of freedom. The excitement has been the same since motorized vehicles took over for the horse and buggy.
Now, as then, driving that moving vehicle–whether it’s a lifted truck, snazzy convertible or family-sized SUV–is a responsibility like no other. The metal surrounding you can be referred to as a weapon of destruction, if not handled with the respect it warrants.
Driving is primarily a thinking task, and you have many things to think about when you’re behind the wheel: watching the road conditions, keeping track of your speed and position; observing traffic laws, signs and signals; following directions; being aware of the cars around you; checking your mirrors; and the list goes on. Staying focused on driving, and only driving, is key.
When texting first came along, we all jumped on the bandwagon. The problem is that texting behind the wheel has created havoc ranging from fender benders to untold horrors.
But distracted driving is not limited to texting. When drivers are distracted by any activity, their attention is diverted, making it more likely that their inattention will endanger the lives of passengers, bystanders and themselves. In fact, multitasking while behind the wheel of a moving vehicle is one of the most dangerous things we can do. As reported by The New York Times, drivers talking on their cell phones are just as likely to have an accident as someone with a blood alcohol level of .08 percent, which is the equivalent of driving after having four beers. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s website, additional distractions that can lead to serious injury or death are eating and drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, reading, using a navigation system, watching a video, or adjusting a radio, CD player or MP3 player.
A recent Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study shows that engaging in visual/manual tasks such as reaching for a phone, dialing and texting, increased the risk of getting into an accident by three times. Text messaging doubles the risk of a crash or near-crash and results in the driver taking their eyes off the road for an average of 23 seconds total. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of a football field completely blind! In 2012, an estimated 420,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver, and the under-20 age group has the largest proportion of crashes due to distracted driving.
Impact Teen Drivers began as a California-based program that partnered with the California Highway Patrol to deliver the teen safe driving message to California high schools, and it has developed into a nationally respected program working with various first responders, educators, health professionals and traffic safety advocates throughout the United States. Impact’s website states that the organization’s mission is “to change the culture of driving forever thereby saving lives not only in this generation of drivers, but also in all future generations of drivers.” Their What Do You Consider Lethal? campaign is an easy-to-use, free program for teachers, safety educators, law enforcement, students and parents designed to bring home the facts to teens about reckless and distracted driving. Its interactive website encourages teens to take the lead in fighting the battle of preventable car crashes and to sign the pledge at whatdoyouconsiderlethal.org.
The #X campaign sponsored by AT&T, encourages teens to text #X to their friends when they’re about to drive, letting them know they will be unavailable until they arrive. The website itcanwait.com also offers an app that silences message alerts and auto-replies, and it offers a pledge to stop texting and driving that as of this writing had 5,590,910 commitments. Similar pledges may be made on distraction.gov, teensagainstdistracteddriving.com and operationparent.org.
As parents, we do our best to model appropriate and safe behavior to our children and their peers. When it comes to reckless or distracted driving, the best and basic rule of thumb for us to model is to drive. Period. HLM
Sources: distraction.gov, impactteendrivers.org, safekidsworldwide.org, www.vtti.vt.edu and whatdoyouconsiderlethal.org,