Driven to Distraction

George_Tranos_Outside_Edge

The Outside Edge

By George Tranos

Let’s face it; we live in an era where we are constantly bombarded with information. There is increasing pressure to remain “connected” 24/7. Some of us are tethered to our electronics and don’t leave home without them. It’s become so bad that some people will be reading their email, texting or using social media while performing other seemingly simple tasks. Unfortunately, some of us think that one of those is driving (or riding). How can otherwise responsible adults believe that they don’t need one hundred percent concentration on the road? The results of this behavior are not pretty. Distracted drivers have crashed into other cars, motorcycles, bright yellow school buses, walls and houses! Most claimed that they never saw the hazard before hitting it.

Distracted driving encompasses many things. The most alarming distraction is texting as it uses the eyes, mind and touch. According to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), “Engaging in visual-manual subtasks (such as reaching for a phone, dialing and texting) associated with the use of hand-held phones and other portable devices increased the risk of getting into a crash by three times.” VTTI also states that “Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded.” Do you want to be oblivious to where you’re going or what hazards exist for the next 300 feet? According to AT&T’s Teen Driver Survey, 97% of teens agree that texting while driving is dangerous, yet 43% do it anyway. Somehow people continue to do this and think it’s okay.

Even if you’re not the one distracted, you will be affected by those that are. Have you ever ridden on the highway and saw someone ahead of you not being able to stay in their own lane? What precautions did you take when approaching such a driver? If you ride or drive every day, you probably see this on a regular basis. I know I’ve seen drivers eating, drinking, shaving, talking on their handheld cellphones, texting, reading, putting on makeup, scolding their kids in the backseat, arguing with their passenger and doing other unmentionable things while they were driving. Needless to say, I’ve tried to steer well clear of them.

So what can we do individually and as a society to address this problem? First, take a pledge to not text while driving. Either put your phone out of reach, turn it off completely or turn off your phone’s notification feature so you are not tempted to find out who and why someone is texting you. When driving, try to remove all potential distractions so you can concentrate on being safe on the road. Use defensive driving techniques to look far ahead, be aware of everything around you, keep your eyes moving, leave yourself an escape path and make sure they see you. Use the search, evaluate, execute driving strategy to find and identify hazards, predict what they will do, decide your response and execute your maneuver.

Additionally, challenge your friends, family and others you meet and come in contact with to not drive or ride distracted. We have to make it less acceptable to tolerate this behavior. It is just as risky to drive distracted as it is to drive drunk. Greater awareness of this problem will help reduce the resultant crashes. Police enforcement of distracted driving laws will also encourage motorists to refrain from driving distracted. No one wants to be pulled over by the police, but for those who recklessly disregard others on the road it is an effective means of deterrence.

Too many motorcyclists have been hurt or killed by distracted drivers and we must do everything we can as riders to change this alarming trend. More states are passing laws but laws are only effective if citizens believe in them and encourage others to obey them. Let’s start with ourselves – individually, our own friends and family and others in the riding community. We must behave in a way that reflects the importance of the distracted driving law, set a good example, encourage others to do so as well and insist on punishment of those who needlessly take the lives of innocent people by driving distracted.