TBT: On the Road Again: Distracted Drivers 11/13

 

Driving the freeway system, toll roads, highways, byways and back roads of America can be quite exhilarating and adventurous but it can also prove to be tedious and at times extremely dangerous. Every day, for any number of reasons, tens of millions of drivers are out there taking their lives in their own hands and relying on the driving skills of others around them, to get them to their destination safely. For the majority of these drivers the drive is work related either as a means of getting to and from their place of employment or as an actual part of their job duties such as the self employed, service companies, local freight and delivery work or long haul trucking.  Some of the driving is commuter student related, business trips, and vacationers. The remainder are simply casual drivers or shoppers.  All potential victims.

images (1)That’s right, if you’re out there traversing the highways, you may at some time or other become a potential victims of a growing danger on the road being called  “Distracted Driver Syndrome” or more simply ‘DDS’.  DDS isn’t actually new, there have always been distracted drivers, but recently deaths and accidents caused by DDS have been growing at an alarming rate and have become a major cause for concern.

There are three main types of distractions related to Distracted Driver Syndrome they are: taking your eyes off the road no matter how briefly, taking your hands off the wheel which is often accompanied with trying to steer the vehicle with your knees and daydreaming or letting your mind wander while driving.

distracted-drivingFor years the primary distractions for drivers were these mind lapses, trying to eat while driving or attempting to deal with children or other situations in the vehicle while in motion. I’m sure we’ve all been involved in or seen some form of distraction or another on our driving outings like people shaving, applying make-up, reading a map or newspaper and no-more-eating-while-driving-or-else-thumb-5955_1my all time favorite someone trying to put on their contact lenses while barreling down the freeway! It takes all kinds! Today, in this technological age, cell phones have become a major distraction for drivers. Talking, texting, emailing, trying to read texts or emails and tweeting while driving is out of control and a major cause of numerous accidents.

osha-distracted-driving1Unfortunately it seems impossible to stop. Recently enacted state laws and fines have done little to curtail cell phone use while driving. In fact the use of GPS navigation equipment and other plug-in audio/video devices like Ipods, MP3’s, DVD players and tablets are also a cause for concern and play a significant role in  driver distraction. It gets better or should I say worse.

As if all this isn’t dangerous enough already, now the camera feature of the cell phones have taken center stage in moving vehicles as more and more drivers, particularly teens, are taking “selfies” (pictures taken of oneself while holding the camera out at arms length) while behind the wheel! As one teen  beneath her photo on the internet said, “behind the wheel selfies make driving less boring.” So I guess playing playing Russian Roulette with a loaded automobile makes the whole driving experience more exiting.Wow! If driving is so boring why drive? I’d prefer idiots like these to use public transportation or stick to walking if not for their own safety then for ours!

I tell you friends DDS is a dangerous yet growing phenomenon. Nearly 2 out of every five automobile injury accidents involves some form of distracted driving. The most recent  studies from 2011 show that drivers distracted by cell phone use especially texting and emailing are 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident. The same report states that nearly 3500 people were killed and 415,000 injured in distraction related accidents in 2011. It further stated that more people were killed and injured by distracted drivers that year than by drivers who were under the influence of alcohol! Pretty scary huh? especially when you consider that these figures were compiled based on drivers who actually admitted to being on their cell phone at the time of their accidents.What about the drivers who didn’t fess up? How much higher would those DDS figures be?

Unfortunately more recent figures have not been released. So what can be done to stop or at least slow down DDS?  It’s obvious that laws and fines aren’t working and probably never will. You know as well as I do that the cell phone laws are being ignored and abused. You can’t drive a mile without seeing at least one driver and sometimes several with their cell phone in hand or plastered against their ear. It’s a losing battle. If laws won’t work what’s left?

Perhaps it should fall back on the auto industry. They’ve been so consumer conscious when it comes to adding auxiliary plugs, audio jacks and Bluetooth for all our electronic toys, maybe they should consider our safety instead. I don’t mean building a stronger, air bag filled, more crash worthy vehicle which they do, I’m talking about driver distraction safety, doing something to help avoid the accidents altogether. What I’m suggesting is the installation of a simple device that would render cell phone use in a moving vehicle null and void. A simple electronic device that would jam the cell phone signal while the car is running. It could be installed on all new vehicles and retrofit on older ones. Why not? Is a phone really necessary while driving? Is it really needed in a vehicle at all while its in motion? I don’t buy the “It would punish the passengers” argument.

Come on, we drove without phones in our vehicles for nearly a century and we survived. The cell phone as we know it today is a creation of the new millennium, before 1995 a cell phone was a luxury only a few could afford. By 2000 they had been reduced in size and price and took off like wildfire!  Now having cell phones in our vehicles is as common as power door locks, but its a luxury we should learn to do without. Let’s face it, some people cant drive and chew gum at the same time let alone talk on the phone or text while driving!

If blocking our phone signal or at least blocking the texting, email and camera features while driving means safer drivers and saving lives then I’m all for it!  What are we waiting for?  Sounds simple right? Well don’t hold your breath it will never happen! Big business isn’t going to do that no matter how many lives it would save. So in the meantime keep your eyes on the road, your hands on the wheel and for godsakes keep your mind on your driving! Don’t slip off to the Bahamas for even just a second. Be safe and don’t ever believe that the other drivers around you are paying attention, they may be texting, taking selfies or thinking about anything other than the fact that they are behind the wheel of a large automobile!

Just Saying…

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