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Distracted driving

Iliesa Sokia From The Land Transport Authority
Tuesday, January 21, 2014

IT'S 8am and you jump in your car to drive to work. You have every intention of driving safely, but within minutes of merging onto the highway you've already checked yourself or makeup in the mirror, fiddled with your car's radio, made two calls on your cell phone and probably sent a text message or two.

You might not realise it, but you're a distracted driver.

Each time you take your focus off the road, even if just for a split second, you're putting your life and the lives of others in danger. An emerging and deadly epidemic on the nation's roads is distracted driving-related crashes.

Driving a car is a very complex task which estimates that distractions are associated with some degree of crashes at all levels. It requires your complete attention. All it takes is a glance away for more than two seconds and you can get into serious trouble.

Distracted driving is any activity that takes your attention away from the road. In everyday driving, however, distractions are common. From talking with passengers, to eating, to turning around to check on jittery toddlers, distracted driving endangers you, your passengers, pedestrians and others.

The Land Transport Authority describes three main types of distractions while driving. Visual distractions cause you to take your eyes off the road, manual distractions cause you to take your hands off the wheel and cognitive distractions, such as listening to a radio show, cause you to take your mind off what you are doing. Driving is a great privilege, but with that privilege also comes responsibility.

The good news is that distracted driving crashes can be prevented. It's preferable and a wise choice to put your electronic device away.

Just don't use it. All it takes is a glance that's longer than two seconds for you to get into a crash.

Some distractions can't be eliminated, but most can be managed. For example, turn your cell-phone off or silence it before you start the engine. Secure your little ones properly before you begin to drive. Don't eat or drink on the road. Don't text and drive. To some that may have GPS privilege, set it first before starting the engine.

While the LTA is continuing with its "No Mobile Just Drive" campaign with hundreds of drivers already implicated and issued warning letters, the authority continues to receive reports from other drivers reported feeling unsafe when in vehicles in which the driver is texting or reading text messages.

"It's another dilemma, we have drivers that continue to violate mobile communication regulations, at the same time receive complaints from passengers who are insecure because the driver will be either texting or reading text messages," the authority says.

"The authority is empowering people to be vigilant and remind drivers to refrain from such risky activity, they must report it to the authority if drivers insist to carry on.

"The public is welcome to report the time of the incident by informing us of the registration of vehicles and we will take action."

This violation is mostly associated with teens or new driving licence holder road users.

Teens are especially vulnerable to distractions while driving and are more likely than other age groups to be involved in a fatal crash where distraction is reported.

Teen drivers are far more likely to send and receive text messages while driving than adults.

Also, a teen's crash risk goes up when there are teen passengers in the car.

Parents need to take a strong stand with their teens. Prohibit teens from using electronic devices while driving and restrict them from carrying teenage passengers.

"Teenagers get into the most crashes the first six months after they have gotten their licence, so it's important that they focus on driving and not get distracted by electronic devices.

While driver distractions come in many forms, texting while driving is especially dangerous.

"It seems common sense not to text while driving, but people are so connected to their electronic devices that they kind of forget themselves," the authority explained.

It's been observed that texting while driving is associated with the highest risk of all cellphone-related tasks.

Research has found that text messaging causes drivers to take their eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds over a six-second interval. That means at 55 miles per hour, a texting driver would travel the length of a football field without looking at the road.

One of the best ways for teens to avoid crashes is to avoid distractions.

Activities, such as texting, eating, or playing loud music while driving, are unnecessary distractions. By paying attention and eliminating potential distractions, you can ensure safety on the road.

Knowing what the three main types of distractions are can help you and your teen recognise activities that could potentially be distracting you from driving.

Hands free does not mean distraction free.

The real issue at the core of talking on a mobile device while you're driving is cognitive distraction.

This means being distracted mentally by the topic of a conversation, as opposed to being physically distracted by operating the phone.

The answer to avoiding this kind of distraction is by simply not answering your cellphone when driving — if you absolutely have to, such as in the case of an emergency, pull over and park.

Texting and talking on your cellphone are not the only activities that you should avoid while driving. The following activities have also been shown to cause driver distraction:

Looking at yourself in the mirror or putting on makeup and even combing your hair and playing loud music. As a driver you must be in an environment where you are able to hear police, ambulance, and fire-truck sirens.

Driver training never really ends; it is a constantly evolving education that starts when you get your learners' permit and continues indefinitely. Nobody is perfect, and we all make mistakes. But it is important that when we do, we take steps to correct those mistakes for the benefit of ourselves and those on the road with us. Staying focused behind the wheel and avoiding distractions is a fundamental part of that, and is a lesson that should be shared not only with new drivers, but with drivers of all ages.

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