By Art Powell, U.S. Army Combat Readiness CenterApril 18, 2016
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (April, 18, 2016) - Say the words "distracted driving" and most folks think of teens who text or gab excitedly with each other while navigating the streets. However, teens aren't the only ones out there paying less than full attention to the road. Distracted driving can just as easily happen to anyone -- maybe even you.
According to information at www.distraction.gov, there are three different types of distraction that can set up drivers for a crash:
• Visual -- taking your eyes off the road
• Manual -- taking your hands off the wheel
• Cognitive -- taking your mind off what you're doing
Texting is perhaps the classic example of distracted driving. What makes it so dangerous is that it involves all three types of distraction. Distracted driving is not limited to texting or talking on a cellphone, though. Here are some other examples that fit the description:
• Eating and drinking
• Talking to passengers
• Reading, including maps
• Using a navigation system
• Watching a video
• Fiddling with the radio
To combat the distracted driving problem, the Department of Defense has banned drivers from using handheld cellphones on military installations. Also, most states and many municipalities have joined the campaign to eliminate distracted driving by imposing their own restrictions.
What about you? Have you ever done anything while behind the wheel that would be considered distracted driving? Be honest. If you travel onto a military installation every morning like I do, chances are you have driven distracted.
One morning, after showing the guard my common access card and passing through the gate, I realized I put myself in a distracted driving environment every time I enter the post. The simple act of placing my CAC back into its slotted carrying case was the problem. As I fumbled with my card, I did the three things you are not supposed to do: I took my eyes off the road, my hands off the wheel and my mind off what I was doing.
My solution to this "CAC distract" was to either put it in my shirt pocket, toss it onto the empty passenger seat or put it into the cup holder in the console. Whatever you choose, it's a lot safer to put it back in the card holder after arriving at work and shutting down your vehicle.
A closer look at 2013 data from distraction.gov reveals some surprising facts from agencies such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
• 10 percent of fatal crashes, 18 percent of injury crashes and 16 percent of all police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes were reported as distraction-affected crashes.
• There were 3,154 people killed and an estimated additional 424,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.
• 10 percent of all drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crashes. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time of the crashes.
• There were 480 non-occupants killed in distraction-affected crashes. It is unknown how many of these non-occupants were potentially distracted as well.
So how badly does distracted driving impair a driver's skills? The University of Utah found drivers using cellphones, including hands-free models, had similar reaction times to motorists with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent. The statistics prove distracted driving is dangerous. But the real question is the one you'll have to ask yourself: "What am I doing behind the wheel that I treat as more important than driving?" And then ask yourself, "Is it more important than living?"
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