Distracted Driving: A Deadly Issue

“Distracted driving is any non-driving activity a person engages in that has the potential to distract him or her from the primary task of driving and increase the risk of crashing.”

 There are three main types of distraction

Visual — taking your eyes off the road

Manual — taking your hands off the wheel

Cognitive — taking your mind off what you’re doing

 

I will never forget this one particular incident, which now I find some humor in…

While driving to one of my many appointments, I watch as this car tries to enter into my lane.  Startled, I realize that this is not intentional nor is it even known by the driver.  As I am able to see, the man is reading a newspaper!  Yes, you read that correctly.  He was reading a newspaper.  What makes this story even better is the fact that he has a large “Drivers Education” triangle displayed on the roof of his vehicle.  Let me repeat this.  Drivers training instructor, reading a newspaper, distracted while driving, yet still advertising his services.  This is the part that I now find somewhat humorous.  Now, would you put your precious child in a car with this drivers training instructor?    

Texting, talking, singing, eating, drinking, smoking, “one more word and I am turning this car around-ing” are all examples of distracted driving.  These are all controllable risk factors to prevent the death of you or a loved one.  So WHY do so many still insist on putting their make-up on in the car, reading their newspaper, or better yet driving with their knees since they are “multi-tasking” and both hands are occupied.  Hands are occupied, but not with the steering wheel.

Here is another story for you:

One night I was witness to a man who was posting photos on facebook.  He was glorifying the fact that he was taking pictures on his motorcycle while driving hands-free on the expressway.  Now, maybe I am alone, but I find this quite scary.  Maybe it is because distracted driving almost claimed my life.  Maybe it is because I understand that there is a false perception that we have of invinsibility, safety, and control.  Maybe it is because I understand from first-hand experience, that every single aspect of one’s life can be altered in a matter of seconds.  Maybe it is because the truck driver, who hit my car three times (first from behind) at 65 miles per hour on the expressway, told the state police officer that he “just didn’t see me.”  Could it be that I am just hyperaware of my surroundings and that the fear of seeing you approach the back of my car at a stop light, when you are illegally texting or having your conversation “that just can’t wait” is really just my problem?

Is my post-traumatic stress justified?  Why might this anxiety exist?

Well, let me share with you a few facts:

  • Each day, more than 15 people are killed and more than 1,200 people are injured in crashes that were reported to involve a distracted driver. 
  • According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):
  •      *The age group with the greatest proportion of distracted drivers was
  •        the under-20 age group.
  •      *16 percent of all drivers younger than 20 involved in fatal crashes were 
  •       reported to have been distracted while driving.
  • According to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves.
  • According to the University of Utah, using a cell phone while driving, whether it’s hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent.

Now if this is not enough for you to consider changing your driving habits, then I suggest that you take a look at this public service announcement, which I relate with through personal experience.  I understand that some viewers may be sensitive; however, if I can watch this video, then so can you. 

A Depiction of Distracted Driving (click here)

The portions of this video that I specifically relate to are the shock and silence while the accident was actually taking place.  This video did an excellent job relaying the idea that time seems to slow down during the traumatic event and it is not until after the brain is able to process what has happened that the feelings and fears are able to surface.

Still not enough, well then I encourage you take a few more moments of your time to view the next video.

A Mother’s Pain: Someone “did not want to get off their phone” (click here)

This video shows how a mother has been affected by a distracted driver following the loss of her child.  She speaks of the stress added to her and family and marriage, which I too have experienced only two weeks after saying “I do.”  Unfortunately for this child, she will not have the opportunity to grow up and experience so much of what many take for granted.

 

To my reader:

Please think before you get behind the wheel.  Think about yourself, your loved ones, and those who you may affect by the act of distracted driving.  Know that there are consequences to actions and sometimes the consequence is death.  I cannot ask you enough to think before you act.  Thank you so much for your time and support.  Please share this with others in efforts to make a difference.

To my husband:

Thank you for getting through all of the additional stress placed on you and our marriage due to the act of a distracted driver.  I can only hope that through writing, educating, and advocating that I will help prevent others from experiencing all of the hurt and pain that we have been forced to experience and accept as part of our lives together.  I love you.

Resources:

http://www.cdc.gov/Motorvehiclesafety/Distracted_Driving/index.html

http://www.distraction.gov/

http://www.distraction.gov/stats-and-facts/index.html