By Contributing Author on Tuesday, December 8, 2009
On my drive into work today I was thinking about the blog post I would be writing today when the driver in front of me provided my inspiration. I was two blocks from the office sitting at a red traffic light waiting for the car in front of me to turn right so that I could follow suit. I patiently waited for traffic to clear so the car in front could make his turn. I watched as he waited and inched his way into the right turn. Just as he was about to turn right, he suddenly switched direction. Yes folks, instead of turning right, this driver swung back around to make a u-turn from the right lane, across three lanes of traffic and into oncoming traffic while simultaneously talking on his cell phone.
From the sudden stops of the oncoming traffic, it was clear to me that this driver was oblivious to the accident he narrowly missed causing. What was he thinking? Oh, wait he wasn’t thinking, he wasn’t watching and both hands were not on the wheel. This driver was unaware in every sense of the word, and his driving was the classic definition of driving distracted. While it would be easy to blame this driver’s carelessness on his cell phone use, the cell phone didn’t cause the driver’s lapse in judgment.
Driver distraction accounts for nearly half of all car crashes and near car crashes alike, with drowsiness and driving while drunk rounding out the top three. Talking on the cell phone gets most of the bad rap. In reality it is our penchant for multitasking while driving that is the real culprit. A driver reaching for a moving object increases the risk of a crash or potential collision by nine times, according to researchers at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. The study also found that the risk of a crash increases almost threefold when a driver is dialing a cell phone.
Distracted driving is not limited to dialing, texting or talking on a cell phone. According to the NHTSA and VTTI study, the principle actions that cause distracted driving and lead to vehicle crashes are many you probably do every time you drive. Ever look at an accident as you’re driving by, rubbernecking or slowing down to gawk at an accident accounts for 16 percent of all distraction-related crashes. After rubbernecking, other common driver distractions included:
• Looking at scenery
• Other passengers or children
• Adjusting the radio, cassette or CD player
• Reading the newspaper, books, maps or other documents
• Grooming such as hair grooming, shaving, or applying makeup.
• Smoking including lighting up, putting out cigarettes, or falling ashes
Distractions constitute any one to all three of these factors: visual (eyes off the road), cognitive (mind off the road), and body (hands off the steering wheel). A recent scanning on the internet of headlines, I noted the following:
May 2004 – Headline: Snake In Car Distracted Driver. Two drivers were injured, one critically, in a head-on collision Thursday morning. The culprit is believed to be a snake moving inside the car.
November 2009 - A low-flying pelican distracted a driver in Texas, causing him to steer off the road and drive his multi-million-dollar sports car into a salt marsh, according to the Police.
November 2009 - Distracted with changing the channel on my car radio to avoid having to listen to those annoying morning DJs with their happy morning attitudes when I failed to notice the car in front of me was slowing, report the driver of this accident.
December 2009 – Pretty Girl In Mini Skirt Causes Car Crash. A man crashes his car into another sedan at a traffic signal. Driver said he was staring at a girl who was wearing a very short skirt and failed to spot the stationary car in front of him.
December 2009 - Captain Frank Huggins reports the driver of this Honda Accord was eating a Reuben and French fries Wednesday night when she slammed head-on into an SUV. “Obviously distracted, she crossed the center line and hit a Nissan Pathfinder occupied by a lady and her 15-year-old son,” said Huggins.
An extreme example of being distracted while driving happened this October when two pilots on Northwest Airlines Flight 188 from San Diego overshot Minneapolis-St. Paul by 150 miles; it was later determined that both pilots were engrossed in a new crew scheduling tool on their laptops.
When you’re distracted it greatly affects your awareness of other drivers, which also slows your decision-making process and your driving performance. That’s when it’s the perfect storm for an accident. Keep your mind and your eyes on the road, and your hands on the wheel.
AutoNation recommends you follow these tips:
• Stay focused.
• Pay attention.
• Expect the unexpected.
• You can eat in your car, just not while it’s moving.
• Ensure all passengers are buckled-up properly.
• If you must answer your cell phone while in your car, pull over to the side of the road.
• Driving while you are upset or angry can be just as dangerous as driving when you are tired.
• Do not tailgate.
• Allow sufficient time to reach your destination.
• Finally, ensure your vehicle is properly maintained.
At AutoNation, we want you to drive and arrive safely.
~~Opinions Of A Backseat Driver