By BARRY D. JOHNSONMarch 24, 2011
How many times have you answered your cell phone, ate or drank, read a book, adjusted your radio or put on makeup while driving' Many drivers today consider these tasks as part of their normal driving habits, getting away with it for so long they consider it normal. Unfortunately, sometimes the result of distracted driving is mangled vehicles and dead or injured victims.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that almost 20 percent of all crashes in 2008 involved some type of distracted driving. Those crashes killed nearly 6,000 people and injured almost 500,000. These crashes could have been avoided had drivers paid attention to driving and not doing other things.
Distractions cause crashes when drivers take their hands off the wheel, look away from the road or mentally focus on something other than driving. As a result, the lengthened reaction time may prevent drivers from responding in time to avoid a crash. In addition, distractions may cause drivers to lose situational awareness, missing things like changes in speed limits, stop signs and other warning signs and traffic signals. These errors behind the wheel may also lead to a crash.
Have you ever been guilty of distracted driving' Think about when you have been driving. Were there times when you took your eyes off the road' What happened' Many times, perhaps nothing dangerous resulted. However, were there times when you realized the vehicle ahead had stopped or slowed down and you had to jam on the brakes or swerve to avoid a crash' Have you ever found yourself running a red light that just a few seconds ago was green' This is what happens when motorists aren't focused on their driving. These minor and sometimes innocent distractions can put us and other drivers in danger.
There are many ways to prevent distracted driving. One is to pull off the roadway and park in a safe place to answer calls or texts. As tempting as it might be, avoid adjusting your GPS navigational device while driving. Know where all the controls for your vehicle are located so you don't have to take your eyes off the road when you need to operate them. Plan ahead and know your route; avoid trying to look at a map or read a printout of directions while you're driving. Lastly, keep children properly secured in a seat belt or child seat and pets secured in a carrier or a seat belt harness.
Preventing distractions while driving should be part of your composite risk management before starting out on any trip. Reducing distractions will greatly increase the chance you will arrive at your destination safely.