Don't Let Distracted Driving Become Your Nightmare

By Jay Anderson

Yeah, that's the text message we've been waiting for, let me text him right back. Oh no I've lost control, were going to crash......... 911 what's your emergency? I'd like to report a terrible crash on ( any road in the United States), there are bodies everywhere send help quickly.

Sound familiar? June 2007 five young women in upstate New York, all recent high school graduates crash head on with an eighteen wheeler resulting in their untimely deaths. Evidence indicates that a cell phone belonging to the driver had sent and received text messages 38 seconds before the first 911 call reported the crash We will never know the truth, but do understand a young inexperienced driver lost control and was responsible for this preventable tragedy.

One can safely assume it's only a matter of time before events such as this become all to common. Text messaging has undoubtly become one of the most dangerous forms of driver distraction. Sadly, young drivers are the most likely motor vehicle operators to be involved in fatal collisions while using electronic devices. Crashes remain the leading cause of death and long term disabilities for ages 1-44.

Nationwide Insurance surveyed 1200 Americans ages 18 to 60 in November 2006. Over 80% were multitaskers; 59% said they're not distracted drivers. The results prove otherwise; 82% adjust radio / CD, 73% talk on cell phones, 68% eat, 19% text message, 14% comfort children, 12% apply makeup. Others admit to shaving, reading, and even changing their clothes.

Vehicles today have become an extension of our living rooms. Automobile manufacturers continue to compound the problem adding components that are distractions. DVD players, GPS systems, CD players, satellite radio, laptop computers are just a few examples. Include the other causes of driver inattention you can easily understand why 8 out of 10 crashes or near collisions are a direct result of driver distraction.

A car going 45 mph can travel more than half the length of a football field in three seconds, the same length of time as the typical distraction.The average reaction time is 1.5 seconds, so even in as little as one second, you can prevent 40 to 60 percent of rear end crashes. Thats why we stress the importance of remembering: awareness is the key to understanding how one second can change a life forever.

Walt Seifert, Executive Director of the Sacremento Area Bicycle Advocates ( SABA ) said it best when he wrote, " We aren't driven to distraction when we drive. We choose distraction. It's an irresponsible choice that endangers our fellow travelers and us. "

Florida is on track to join the five states that ban the use of handheld cell phones while driving ( California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Washington ) along with Washington D.C. At least 16 states restrict cell phone use by young drivers. Senator Frederica Wilson, D, Miami Gardens, has prepared Senate Bill 172 which will be introduced in March 2009

The Stay Alive .... Just Drive ! ™crash prevention education and awareness program directly addresses driver education, one of three vital traffic safety components ( education, engineering, and enforcement ) Ultimately the person behind the wheel is in control and responsible for the safe and law abiding operation of the vehicle. Hopefully we were all taught the benefits of safe driving, so as a reminder, here is a list of driving tips and suggestions we should all practice;

  •  Buckle up ( 3 seconds that can save your life )
  •  Use your turn signals when changing lanes
  •  Don't follow to closely ( 1 car length for every 10 mph )
  •  Drive within 5 to 7 mph of the posted speed limit
  •  Stop for RED LIGHTS
  •  Use care in parking lots ( especially while backing up )
  •  Look twice for motorcycles
  •  Be aware of bicyclists and pedestrians ( One Road – Many Users)
  •  Yield the way to emergency vehicles
  •  Don't talk or answer your cell phone while driving
  •  Leave your house 10 minutes earlier
  •  Most of all, Keep Your Eyes on the Road and Your Hands Upon the Wheel

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Traffic safety professional, Jay Anderson, is Executive Director of Stay Alive .... Just Drive! ™