Would you agree to drive the length of a football field blindfolded at 50 mph, on a road with twists and turns, with other drivers suddenly changing lanes or slamming on their brakes, and pedestrians crossing the street unexpectedly? The obvious answer is no. But today’s drivers are texting, browsing the web, putting on makeup with one hand while holding a cup of coffee with the other, and engaging in many other forms of visual, manual or cognitive distractions.
This behavior is the cause of many deaths and catastrophic injuries. In fact, distracted driving is now the leading cause of death in drivers under age 21. A recent study shows that regardless of age, 80 percent of all crashes and 65 percent of all near-crashes involve some form of distracted driving. Unfortunately, these drivers never realize how dangerous their behavior is until it is too late.
Distracted drivers who cause death or injury are often busy moms on their way to soccer practice who decide to send a quick text, or dads who respond to an email on their way to work. Others are looking at meaningless Facebook updates, reaching for a moving object in a car or trying to check last night’s score simply because they are bored in the car. They all have one thing in common--all of them made a bad decision that they will regret for the rest of their lives.
Statistically, distracted drivers are more likely to cause an accident than drunk drivers. Not only is the risk higher, but distracted drivers cause more violent collisions. Compared to drunk drivers who may have a diminished response time, distracted drivers generally never respond at all. The explanation is simple--the distracted driver never saw it coming, never reacted and as a result, caused a more violent impact.
The bottom line is that distracted driving is preventable. And parents must be role models for their kids. No text or phone message is worth putting a life at risk. It is vital to understand the dangers of distracted driving and to teach kids how to be safe behind the wheel.
Out of sight, out of mind. Putting your smartphone away will feel strange at first, but you will get used to it. When you choose to put your phone away before you start driving, you cannot be tempted or distracted. It only takes a few seconds for you to look down at your phone and to cause terrible things to happen to yourself or to others.
If you have other drivers in the car with you, have them operate your phone. They can look up addresses, make a call or text when needed.
Next time you are in a hurry, ask yourself whether taking an extra 60 seconds to pull over to a safe location beats a prison sentence, death or a lifelong disability.
Distracted driving is driving while engaged in any activity that could divert a person's attention away from the primary task of driving. Whether you like it or not, people around you will adopt your behavior, regardless of what you preach. Consequently, always be a role model for others.
The next time you see some teenagers, ask them whether they are ever afraid of being a passenger in a car driven by their parents or friends. Many will give you specific examples of when this has happened to them. But they are afraid to speak up. They are afraid of being a drag or are afraid that their parents will not take them seriously. Interestingly, when people do speak up, people actually listen.
You are a role model, even if you never signed up to be one. Children and teens will observe and emulate your behavior. They also are the first to call you on your hypocrisy. Preaching about distracted driving without following your rules is like dropping a leaf down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo.
Many claim to be great multitaskers. However, our brains cannot do multiple things well at one time. Imaging studies of the brain clearly show that just listening to another person while driving can dramatically diminish the driver’s ability to operate the vehicle and increases the risk of a collision.
Drivers have a responsibility not only to other drivers, but also to those in their own vehicles. Sometimes, you just need to politely remind others about distracted driving. They will stop driving distracted if you make them aware. It is your right to be safe while a passenger, so speak up.
More than 90 percent of American adults have cell phones. The majority of drivers on the road who engage in distracted driving are adults. Just because you are an adult, you are no more immune from killing yourself or someone else due to distracted driving.
Drivers who killed or injured themselves or others due to distracted driving never knew what was coming. It can happen to anyone. Nobody can make your choices for you. Keep in mind that you are lucky to still have a choice not to cause harm. It is up to you what to do with that choice.
There are only two types of distracted drivers: Those who already have caused harm and those who will. Safe drivers are different from lucky drivers. The good news is that distracted driving is preventable because driving distracted is a choice.
Every day, drivers make a choice. We can choose to save someone’s life—maybe our own life or the life of a friend, mom, dad, brother or sister. No text or phone message is ever worth putting anyone’s life at risk. Each and every person has the power to save a life.
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