22 April 2013
Distracted Driving Kills: A Message from the Fort Detrick Safety Office

By Charles Harriday

Thousands are killed each year due to distracted driving, and nearly half a million are injured. Yet, many choose not to acknowledge the dangers involved with distracted driving, while others willfully continue to text and talk when driving.?

?While operating a vehicle, any non-driving activity that takes your attention away from driving is considered a distraction.Taking your eyes off the road for any length of time, any action that requires you to take your hand(s) off of the wheel while the vehicle is in motion, and actions that allow you to focus more on it than on the primary task of driving is considered a distraction.?

All of these distractions increase the risk of one having an accident.Did you know that, during daylight hours, 800,000 vehicles are being driven while someone is using a hand-held device? Talking on a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity devoted to driving by 37 percent??

Sending or reading a text forces you to remove your focus from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds - this means that if you were driving at a speed of 55 miles per hour, you would have driven the entire length of a football field blindfolded. Research has shown that conversations while driving will cause the driver to miss the important visual and audio cues that would ordinary help to avoid a crash - and that’s with using a hands-free device.

Who is found driving distracted? Our youngest and most inexperienced drivers are the most at risk, as 16 percent of all distracted driving crashes involve drivers under the age of 20 according to the Maryland State Highway Administration, but they are not the only ones at risk.

In today’s society, many people lead very busy and stressful lives; the use cell phones is a means of staying connected with family, friends and business associates. This use of cell phones may appear to be a harmless and normal action; however, it has become the root cause for the most tragic and fatal crashes.

Current Maryland laws associated with distracted driving include:

* Handheld ban for all drivers (Secondary law)

* Ban on all cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) for beginner drivers (Secondary law).

* Ban on texting for all drivers (Primary law)A Secondary law allows an officer to issue a ticket only if a driver has been pulled over for another violation.?

?For a Primary law, an officer can ticket the driver for the offense without any other traffic violation taking place.

Here are some tips for managing distractions while driving:

1. Turn off your cell phone before you get in the vehicle.

2. Place your cell phone out of reach to avoid using it while driving.

3. Avoid wearing headphones (this may be illegal).

4. Do not multi-task (drivers make, on average, 20 major decisions during every mile of driving).?

5. Use safety apps to avoid texting and talking while behind the wheel.

6. Stay focused - distracted driving increases a driver’s risk of crashing by 23 percent.

7. Change your voicemail and/or outgoing greeting message to state that you are either unavailable (and/or) driving, and that you will call back at your earliest convenience.

8. Ask the passenger to make the call for you.

9. Prepare for your environment prior to pulling off (review, change or set your navigation/ radio/climate control).

10. Keep in mind that hands-free cell phones are not safer. Cell phone use while driving is a visual, mechanical and cognitive distraction.

The best way to help fight distracted driving is to get educated. Doing the right thing and learning about the dangers of distracted driving will help to protect you, your family and fellow drivers. Take the pledge to protect yourself by driving phone free.

Remember, when the ignition is on, turn your cell phone off.

Posted by PAO

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   - the official newspaper for Fort Detrick.
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