April is distracted driving awareness month. By now, even your great grandmother knows that distracted driving ranks as one of the highest mortality issues for drivers in America. Drivers spend more than half their time focused on things other than driving. And there are more distractions in the car than ever before, other than the obvious cell phone use. Driving with your knees while eating a Big Mac, drinking a beverage (hopefully non-alcoholic), smoking (hopefully just cigarettes), listening to and/or looking at your GPS, reading something, applying makeup, shaving, disciplining your kids, changing a radio station, looking for a cd, plugging in your iphone, ipod, ipad or “i-yi-yi!” There are unlimited distractions!
Over 3,200 people were killed and an additional 424,000 (yes…thousand) people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2013 alone! Distractions are estimated to be associated with 15-25% of crashes at all levels. And, although cell phone use is a major distraction, texting (taking your eyes off the road to text) increases the risk more than just cell phone use.
I hear new drivers constantly commenting on how intense and difficult it was to learn how to drive. The responsibility alone of barreling down the road in a giant chunk of steel is a huge responsibility. That’s when you feel truly grown up. Now you’re independent and can drive yourself where you need to go. No longer relying on anyone to take you places. But, with that responsibility comes consequences. Which is also a factor in becoming an adult. If you’ve ever driven a clutch, you’ll recall your first time, how it took all of the coordination you could muster to push in the clutch with your left foot, while giving it a little gas with your right foot and shifting gears without it stalling out or rolling back into the car behind you. Now, that’s multi-tasking! It took a bit of practice, but you finally mastered it. Perhaps you will also remember how virtually impossible it was to do anything other than drive when you were driving a straight shift? There’s no way you could hold or drink a beverage, smoke, or do anything while you were shifting gears? I’m not saying that everyone should sell their automatics and buy a 5-speed, but some parents have told me that they have done just that with their teen drivers for just that reason. So they “can’t” multi-task.
With April being distracted driver awareness month, law enforcement in all states will be cracking down on distracted drivers, especially those texting or talking on the phone. Maybe pledging, if even to yourself, to not be a distracted driver for the rest of the month will start you on the path to better driving habits. And may save a few lives, to boot!
Until next week…
Daun Thompson
Writer / Comedienne / Artist
Distracted Driving Awareness Month – Comedy Defensive Driving