Prevention
Solutions Newsletter


19

Distracted driving injures and kills. It injures and kills the distracted driver, the driver’s passengers and other innocent pedestrians and drivers alike. The aftermath destroys the families of the driver and victims.

While there are many causes for distracted driving, the focus here is primarily cell phone use and texting, something many of us have done. Before we go on though, let’s look at the three main types of distracted driving: visual, manual and cognitive.

Simply put, “visual” distracted driving is taking your eyes off the road. It’s looking down at a phone to see who that call or message is from, or looking at the keypad to dial a number or text a reply. “Manual distraction” involves taking your hands off the wheel and actually keying in a phone number or typing a text, while “cognitive distraction” is present when the mind is taken away from its focus on driving. Except where a phone may accomplish texting through voice recognition, most texting involves all three distractions and presents significant danger. Even alone, any of the three types can maim or kill.

Some countries have laws requiring hands-free operation with headsets for drivers. In some regions school bus drivers are not even allowed those. Keep in mind that headsets may eliminate “manual distraction” by allowing the driver to maintain both hands on the wheel, but they also place the user right in the middle of that “cognitive distraction” mentioned previously. The use of a cell phone in “hands-free” mode still increases the risk of accidents.

I have no desire to bore anyone with statistics here, but I will say studies point out significant increases in the potential for an accident if one is talking or listening on a cell phone or reaching for equipment. According to a study from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, evidence shows that for heavy vehicles and trucks, “the risk of a crash or near-crash event was 23.2 times as high as non-distracted driving” when text messaging. That’s pretty significant. It is kind of like Russian roulette with a cell phone, except the driver may take others out as well. Frankly, that is not a risk I care to take and neither should you.

For a powerful message regarding the dangers of texting and driving, watch the AT&T documentary “The Last Text” athttp://www.att.com/gen/press-room?pid=2964. It would be hard to be any clearer.

Here are a few brief tips to consider:

  1. If you are like me, just the vibration, ding, or ring of a cell phone call or text is going to distract. My mind wants to know who it is and what it is about. I want to look. And if I look, I want to respond. Unless there is someone else in the car to take those calls and answer texts, put your phone on silent mode or shut it off. You might consider putting it in the glove box, but don’t place it in the trunk, as you might need it in an emergency. Sound hard to do? It’s really not (well, not for most people anyway). Those who travel must shut their phones off all the time on planes. And that is for hours.
  2. Don’t text friends you know are driving.
  3. If you run a business, establish a policy forbidding the use of cell phones while driving. No calls, no texting.
  4. If using a GPS device, make all settings before driving away. If an adjustment must be made, find a safe place to park and make that adjustment, or have someone else in the car do it. Do not make GPS entries when driving.

My challenge for you today is to ignore the calls and text messages the moment you turn the key on. The call can wait. That text can be read and answered later. Neither is going anywhere. In fact, by not using the phone or texting, you increase the chance you will survive to reach your destination and can properly respond to either.

For more information on distracted driving, see the risk control resource, Distracted Driving, Cell Phones and Texting, on Adventist Risk Management’s website A sample cell phone use policy can also be found under “risk control forms” on our site.

Posted in: March 2011

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