Taking your eyes off the road for a split second is all it takes to change or end a life. The situation became personal recently when a family friend made the wrong choice of reading a text message while driving. In a split second, she drifted off the road and struck a tree head-on. You can see from these pictures of her vehicle, it is a miracle no one was injured in this single vehicle accident last month on Main St., Hingham. The driver, Amanda, age 28, had no passengers and acknowledged to the police that she did take her eyes off the road to read an incoming text message. The accident came as a shock to family and friends as we all know Amanda as a highly responsible young adult. She knew better but still made a terrible decision. I can guarantee Amanda learned from this experience and she hopes others learn from her incident. A few days after the accident, I took my 16 year old daughter to see the heavily damaged 2012 Jeep at the auto body shop. Seeing the vehicle made the consequences of distracted driving more real to my daughter who recently acquired a driver’s permit.
In 2009, nearly 5500 people were killed and an additional 448000 injured in crashes involving distraction. There are three types of distracted driving- visual, manual and cognitive. Visual is taking your eyes off the road, manual is taking your hands off the wheel and cognitive is taking your mind off the task at hand. Text messaging while driving may be considered the most distracting of all because it includes all three types of distracted driving - visual, manual and cognitive. Sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent-at 55 mph-of driving the length of an entire football field blindfolded.
Distracted driving is not only texting and driving. Any non-driving activity you engage in is a potential distraction that increases your risk of crashing. All distractions endanger driver, passenger and bystander safety. These include texting, using a cell phone, talking to passengers, grooming, reading including maps, using a navigation system, watching a video or adjusting a radio.
If it's so dangerous, why do people do it?
Some people still don't understand distracted driving is dangerous. Others know about the risks of texting and talking while driving, but still choose to do so anyway. They make the mistake of thinking the statistics don't apply to them and believe they can defy the odds. Still others simply lead busy, stressful lives and use cell phone to stay connected with their families, friends, and workplaces. They forget or choose not to shut these devices off when they get behind the wheel.
Who are the most serious offenders?
Our youngest and most inexperienced drivers are most at risk, with 16% of all distracted driving crashes involving drivers under 20. However, they are not alone as 84% of distracted driving accidents involve adults over 20.
Is it safe to use a hands-free device to talk on a cell phone while driving?
The research indicates that the cognitive distraction of having a hands-free phone conversation causes drivers to miss the important visual and audio cues that would ordinarily help you avoid a crash.
The bottom line for safe driving is to keep your eyes on the road, hands on the wheel and mind on the task of driving.
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