Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is driving while engaging in any activity that draws a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.  Today, the largest group of people who think they can beat the odds involved in distracted driving are drivers under the age of 20, who make up 11% of all drivers involved in fatal crashes caused by distracted driving.

This should not come as a surprise: Any driver under 20 today is part of the electronic-media generation, known for taking great pride in their ability to multitask.  They have apparently gone from the early-teen remark, “Oh, I always do my homework while I’m watching TV, on the phone and tweeting” to the later teen boast that they can drive and, even if they are obeying the law and aren’t texting, can still chat with friends in the back seat simultaneously.

Anyone who believes that driving is an area where multitasking is a useful ability simply does not understand what’s at stake.

To get an idea of why that’s so, consider a simple everyday thought like this:  “I’m hungry.”  OK, now you remember the food in the bag somewhere nearby.  How long might it take, for example, to find a bag (searching with one hand) and then dig through it to find a sandwich, and then success!.. but you still need to unwrap it and then…….you get the picture.  The car is rolling all this time.

How Many Seconds Was That?  

You might say “just a few” but consider this:

At 60 mph— less than freeway speed— if you glance down for just 2 seconds to unwrap a sandwich, insert a CD, or change the climate control, you have traveled blindly for 176 feet – more than half the length of a football field!

Some trusting souls think they can overcome this situation by making sure the steering wheel remains in a fixed position going straight ahead — by keeping one hand on the wheel or by propping the wheel against their knees.  This might work in a controlled experiment in a lab with a dry track, but out on the road, look out!

Any sudden thing that comes up that you didn’t see before—even if’s not a big thing like a car but “a little itty-bitty thing” like a puddle or a patch of gravel covering the road – can present a hazard. With eyes off the road, you won’t be able to take evasive action.  Even if you do look back to the road in time, you’ll most likely need to have both hands available instantaneously to avoid disaster.

Distracted Driving is not Just Physical

Human beings have a wide range of different emotions and all of them can cause different effects when driving. One of the main effects is simply distraction; when drivers are emotional they are focused on the particular emotion or thought that is making them feel that way instead of the situation on the road.

This is the main problem with any emotional state while driving:  it causes distraction, and it doesn’t make any difference whether the driver is emotionally upset or the opposite: occupied with positive thoughts. No matter what, drivers must focus on the task at hand, so the best drivers are those who are able to block out any irrelevant thoughts during the period of time that they’re behind the wheel.

Some of the physiological effects of emotions include an increased heart rate, the release of adrenalin, which can cause a wide range of different effects, an inability to focus, restlessness, muscle tension, upset stomach, chest pain, fatigue, and many other symptoms. Clearly all of these symptoms can have a major effect on a person while they are driving, and they can most definitely affect the operation of the vehicle. Drivers must be aware of their emotional state and understand the importance of focusing on the act of driving to guarantee their safety and the proper operation of the vehicle.