Put aside distractions when you are driving
You may not be interested in a biology lesson, but the workings of the brain need to be understood so you can get a good grasp of the term “distracted driving” and why it is so important to keep your attention – and your eyes – on the road and your hands on the steering wheel.
The frontal lobe of the brain is just behind your forehead. This part of the brain alerts you to risks, tells you there is danger and what you should do. The parietal lobe is behind the frontal lobe. The information that you sense – danger or safety, for example – is shared here and prompts your response. The occipital lobe thinks through visuals along the way and interprets what you see to determine if there is danger or not.
The processes in the brain happen quickly. You aren’t even aware of what they are doing. When you are alert to your surroundings your eyes see those bright, red brake lights of the car ahead of you and the order shoots to your foot to hit your brake and control your vehicle to avoid a collision. In a snap the impulse travels from brain to foot. Even a conversation in your vehicle can distract your thought processes, limiting what you notice around you. Think about when you were driving and had a close call.
There are three types of distracted driving.
Manual is anything that takes both hands off the steering wheel – changing settings in the car, reaching for things like makeup in a handbag, your wallet, something in the glove compartment or back seat.
Visual is any distraction that causes drivers to take their eyes off the road. This includes cell phones, GPS devices, watching people, animals and other distractions outside the vehicle and along the road.
Cognitive is anything that takes your mind off of your driving and watching the road … the argument you had, the presentation you have to make, day dreaming, talking to someone who is riding in your car with you or talking on your cell phone.
When you text and drive, all three forms come together, raising your risk of crash, injury, or death.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration advises that in the United States during 2014, there were 3,179 people killed and 431,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver. Drivers using handheld devices are four times as likely to be involved in a serious crash. In Ohio alone, there were 11,979 crashes involving distracted drivers. These crashes are happening more and more often. And they can be prevented.
How can you avoid becoming a statistic of distracting driving?
Shut off your phone and put it away, in the cargo area of your car if you have to.
Before you get behind the wheel, secure the objects inside your vehicle to keep them from rolling around. If you are involved in a crash, everything that is not secured will be thrown forward on impact.
Secure children and restrain pets. Seatbelts and car seats save lives. Nobody wants their children or pets to be thrown around in a crash. There are occasionally exceptions to the rule, but ask anyone who has been saved by the belt.
Before you put the engine in gear, program your destination into your GPS device.
If you like to listen to tunes while you’re driving down the road, set your station or make a playlist before you begin the trip.
There was a time before cell phones when you weren’t at home and missed a phone call. The caller had to call you back later. That caller understood that you were busy and unavailable. It was OK. The same applies today. You can catch up on your calls later. Get to your destination safely. The Ohio Highway Patrol, local police departments and emergency responders prefer not to make your acquaintance at a crash scene.
Family Recovery Center works with the Ohio Traffic Safety Office. The agency facilitates the “Be Smart Be Safe” traffic safety awareness program that provides awareness and education to drivers in Columbiana County through media campaigns, community events and outreach. The goal is to give knowledge to reduce risky driving and fatal crashes. Traffic safety programming is provided through FRC’s Education Department.
FRC programs address substance use and abuse, mental health, education and prevention. All services promote individual, family and community wellness by creating healthy lifestyle choices. FRC’s services connect directly with Ohio Traffic Safety Office’s mission of saving lives and reducing injury on Ohio’s roads.
Through its programming and experience, FRC has the capability to provide knowledge and awareness regarding traffic safety throughout Columbiana County. Activities/events address impaired driving and alcohol related fatal crashes (“Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,”) seat belt usage (“Click It or Ticket,”) and motorcycle safety (“Look Out for Motorcycles.”) The goal is through media coverage, programs and displays, the traffic safety messages will reach the community and decrease fatalities and serious injuries.
(Eloise V. Traina is executive director of Family Recovery Center)