***Let me paint a picture for you***
Gina pulls up to a stop light and quickly flips down her visor to touch up her mascara. Her favorite song came on the radio, so she reaches over to turn it up. In the process, she dumps the coffee that she was holding on her lap. Annoyed, she digs through her purse to find her phone. She needed to call work to let them know she would be late because she has to go home to change her coffee stained pants. In all this turmoil, Gina had taken her foot off the break and had rolled into oncoming traffic.
Based on news reports and articles, we know that this scenario didn’t stop there.
We have all heard the dangers of texting and driving, but distractions also include changing the radio station, eating, applying makeup, shaving, reading, changing clothes, daydreaming and many more. What are the effects on our reaction time and how does it affect our ability to drive safely?
I am going to take you on a road trip. We will make a stop at the brain and examine driving and attention issues. We will then roll on over to hear about some experiments that have been done exposing distracted drivers and hear about some statistics. I will be slamming on the breakers to share with you some real-life tragedies and then I will drive it home with what should be done. Ready? Remember to put on your seat belts.
Multitasking means to carry out 2 or more tasks at the same time. In the 2009 Pearson Education edition of Psychology, in 2007 Dr. D. Strayer and Dr. F. Drews of the University of Utah have done studies that showed that dividing our attention can be a very dangerous endeavor. These studies have shown that doing other activities while driving puts people at the same level of risk as if driving under the influence of alcohol.
In a 2006 edition of TIME magazine, written by Claudia Wallis, explains how the brain handles multitasking. It doesn’t! In her interview with David Meyer, director of the Brain, Cognition and Action Laboratory of the University of Michigan, he explains that when people try to perform two or more tasks, errors increase substantially and it often takes twice as long to complete the tasks at hand. What do you think that means for the breaking time behind the wheel?
Laws are being passed throughout the country banning texting and driving. Illinois passed its law in the summer of 2006. What about the driver who is chomping on a cheeseburger while rooting around in a bag looking for French fries? I don’t know about you, but I only have two hands. So, math would dictate that the driver didn’t have ANY hands on the steering wheel of their car. Maybe he was using a knee or an elbow. Either way, it doesn’t make me feel any better about it.
I am also all in favor of looking my best. However, the idea of putting on makeup while driving seems a daunting task to me. I poke myself in the eye while doing it in the safety of my own bathroom.
In the winter of 2006, researchers from Virginia Tech Transportation Institute followed 241 drivers or 100 cars for more than a year to learn what causes accidents. The cars were equipped with video-enhanced electronic data recorders. In the end, they tallied 2 million miles driven and 42 thousand hours of data from the 241 drivers.
The results included: 82 crashes/collisions
8,295 incidents that required evasive maneuvering
“Driver Error” was found to be the main factor in more than 90% of these issues. 80% of all crashes & 65% of all incidents involved the driver being distracted or looking away from the forward road. A distraction is defined as a 3-second window of inattention. How long are 3 seconds? 1…2…3…That’s all it takes to change lives. By understanding how and why these crashes occur, a wealth of information can hopefully lead to improving our overall driving safety and creating stricter laws and penalties.
In a Senate Floor speech given by Democratic Representative Engel of New York, on March 23, 2010, he spoke of how the Secretary of Transportation, Rayla Hood, described distracted driving as a deadly epidemic plaguing our county.
In the 2009 Report on Distracted Driving, published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, states that 25% of all accidents, in 2008, were caused by distracted drivers. There were 6000 fatalities and more than ½ million injuries. Texting while driving has caused more than 16,141 road fatalities between 2002 and 2007, according to research done at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Ft. Worth.
Check your seat belts again, because we are about to screech to a halt right here.
Here’s your reality check. On Aug. 5th, 2010 in St. James, Mo. a simple text message set off a change reaction accident that killed 2 teenagers, injured dozens more and left 2 school buses and a pickup truck in a heap. Daniel Schatz, the 19-year-old driver who was the cause of this horrible event, had been texting with a friend when he slammed into the back of a semi cab that was slowing down for road construction, he was killed instantly. The school buses, unable to avoid it, crashed into the wreck killing a 15 yr old girl. All of this for a question about going to the county fair.
As far as I am concerned, texting and driving are as senseless as drinking and driving. Texting laws vary widely from state to state and region to region, but I am pretty clear where I stand on the issue. Anyone caught texting and driving needs to be punished. Not a slap on the wrist, but real, tangible punishments. Their license should be suspended for at least 1 year if stopped by a police officer. If they have caused an accident, they should be responsible for all the costs. If someone is injured or killed due to their disregard for human life, then they need to serve time. I drive every day. My husband, my children, my family, and my friends are all out there on the roads. Respect them, respect yourself, and pay attention.
A report from the Associated Press, on Feb 13th, 2011, in Fruitport, Michigan, Jeremy Griffin was returning home from his snowplowing route when he looked away from the road for “a split second”( gesture with fingers). In that split second, Jeremy slammed his snowplow into a 19 yr old young man, Corey McNett, who was standing on the side of the road. In that split second, Jeremy was either taking his truck out of four-wheel drive, grabbing a cigarette off his passenger seat or glancing at his phone- he doesn’t recall which. The young victim, Corey, had just put gas in his vehicle and was in the process of closing the trunk of his mother’s car when Griffin’s truck slammed into him. Corey did not die instantly. It took several minutes. Jeremy was placed on probation for six months and ordered to perform community service and pay $850 in fines, fees, and costs. That’s all the judge felt this crime was worth.
Now that I have shared with you reports and statistics, I wonder, how many of you will get behind the wheel of a car and text, or eat, or argue with talk radio – OR – how many lives will be saved because you are now informed?
In doing the research for this speech, a quote came to mind. It is from Stan “The Man “Lee, or as you all may remember, from the movie “Spiderman.” Uncle Ben tells Peter Parker, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
To be handed the keys to a vehicle is a very powerful moment. It is the accumulation of events that got you there. Permits, driver’s education, begging someone to drive with you for practice, then you take the driver’s test. You get your picture on that little plastic card. Power…and now you must be responsible, not only for your own life but for the lives of your passengers and the lives of other people on the road.
Stay Alive Just Drive.
This was your PSA for today! Be safe.
Until next time boys and girls…
Find joy. Be joy. Enjoy.