Distractions Cause More Than Just Close Calls
What comes to mind when someone mentions distracted driving? Chances are the first thing you think of is cell phone use. But cell phones are just the tip of the distracted driving iceberg. There are three main types of distractions.
Visual: anything that takes your eyes off the road, whether it’s some kind of mobile device or the fender bender off the side of the road. Once your eyes move from the road ahead to anything else inside or outside the vehicle, you’re distracted.
Physical: anything that takes your hands off the wheel or feet off the pedals. Here again, mobile devices are common culprits, as are entertainment systems, reaching for something, or even eating and grooming.
Mental: This may be an odd question, but do you remember driving to work today? Daydreaming is a prime example of a mental distraction. But, so is a conversation with a passenger or over the phone. (There’s that mobile device distraction again!)
In 2012, there were more than 2.5 million registered vehicles on the road.1 That’s more than 2.5 million opportunities for distracted driving.
Describing distracted driving as an epidemic doesn’t do it justice—it has gone beyond that. It is rampant, worsened by the influx of electronic devices constantly competing for drivers’ attention. People are setting priorities based on an electronic device, putting something as trivial as an alert or phone call ahead of safe, attentive driving. Drivers everywhere are choosing—and it is a choice—to interact with mobile devices while they’re on the road. That choice puts them and everyone around them in danger.
Don’t Do It!
The old joke goes something like this: A man walks into the doctor’s office and says, “Doctor, it hurts when I do this.” The doctor replies, “Then don’t do that.”
As simplistic as it is, the doctor’s advice could be easily applied to distracted driving!
- Make calls before you start the vehicle. Then store your phone and other electronic devices out of reach.
- Notify everyone that you ignore device alerts while you’re driving, but you’ll reply when you can safely do so. Stop in a safe spot before Responding. (That does not include while you’re stopped at stop signs/lights—using your phone in those situations is illegal in many states.)
- Check GPS directions or driving instructions before you head out. The less often you have to check your route, the less you’ll be distracted.
- While you’re driving, wait to answer or make a radio call. Pull over to a safe spot and stop.
Your family, friends, and co-workers play an important part in the happy ending to your day. They all want to make it home safely every night, and they want you to as well. Promise yourself that you’ll do whatever necessary to ignore distractions while behind the wheel.
1United States Department of Transportation; National Transportation Statistics; accessed 9/3/2015. http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/sites/rita.dot.gov.bts/files/publications/national_transportation_statistics/html/table_01_11.html
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