The Dangers of Distracted Driving
By Diane Tait
|Image courtesy Pixabay|
Now that Halloween has come and gone, the Christmas shopping season has kicked into high gear. That means lots and lots of holiday shoppers are going on their merry way as they drive from store to store in search of the perfect gifts for loved ones. It also means an uptick in traffic accidents caused by those same drivers, many of whom are less than attentive behind the wheel. To help you and yours have a happy and safe holiday shopping season, I thought I’d give you a few helpful hints to help you avoid distracted driving.
‘Tis the Season – Since COVID kept everyone close to home last year, there is a predicted surge in the number of holiday shoppers in 2021. Add to that the recent announcement by retailers that they’re having major holiday inventory delivery issues and you have a recipe for frustrated shoppers that are bound to produce a bevy of problems in stores and on the road. To make matters worse, some big box retailers decided to stage their Black Friday sales early. If you’ve seen the YouTube videos that showed manic shoppers fighting over holiday gifts in years past, you haven’t seen anything yet. The Grinch is expected to make his presence known in a big way this holiday shopping season. That means you can expect to see scads of misbehaved shoppers acting less than civilized in stores and on the roads. Don’t let the bad habits of other shoppers spoil your holiday spirit. Be prepared for delays and potential road rage incidents. Remain calm at all costs.
Don’t become a statistic by being distracted. - It doesn’t take the holiday crunch to make you a distracted driver. Today’s late-model vehicles come with way too many distractions all by themselves. In the short amount of time it takes you to look down at the display on your dashboard to read a text or change your music selection, you’ll travel 58.8 feet at 40 MPH, 88 feet at 60 MPH, and more than 102 feet at 70 MPH. Taking your eyes off the road ahead is the number one cause of accidents in the US. All that has to happen is the driver ahead to tap their brakes while you look away for a second and you’ll be spending a lot more time than you thought on the road as you wait for the police and a wrecker to arrive to deal with your traffic accident. Especially at this time of year, it’s vital that you don’t allow anything or anyone inside your vehicle to take your mind off the task at hand.
|Image courtesy Pixabay|
How can you be distracted? Let me count the ways. – Distractions abound inside and outside your vehicle. Text messages and incoming phone calls clamor for your attention. Onboard GPS systems talk to you to let you know when it’s time to make the next turn. Passengers gabble away while you’re trying to stay alert to what’s going on outside. The cup holder beckons to let you stave off dehydration. Your pet dog pokes its head up every time something interesting zips by your car. Stores are decked out with garland, twinkling lights, and other holiday finery. Shopping mall Santas abound on the sidewalks trying to entice shoppers to visit the stores that employ them. Some motorists adorn their vehicles with everything from sleigh bells and faux antlers to Rudolph’s red nose during the holidays. In short, there are dozens of things vying for your attention as you motor down the road this holiday shopping season. If you want to stay safe, you need to tune out the myriad of distractions that could cause you to take your eyes off the traffic ahead.
What is the holy trinity of distracted driving? – Most drivers don’t even realize they’re being distracted until they hear the squeal of tires and a sickening thud that characterizes a wreck. That’s because many motorists don’t realize there are three ways to become distracted behind the wheel:
1. Visual and aural distractions encourage you to take your eyes off the road.
2. Manual distractions get you to take your hands off the wheel.
3. Cognitive distractions cause you to let your mind wander from the task at hand.
That’s right, just the very thought of where you can find that coveted present can cause you to let your thoughts drift from driving long enough to cause you to wind up missing those brake lights ahead of you and wind up in a wreck.
If you can be distracted, so can other drivers. – As bad as losing focus on your own driving, what’s just as dangerous are other drivers being distracted as they head toward their next strip mall. Just the other day, I slammed on my brakes as one harried shopper cut across three lanes to zip into a store parking lot. A few weeks before that I was standing in a store parking lot when I heard what I thought was the sound of thunder only to realize I was witnessing a multi-car pileup on University Blvd. when one distracted driver plowed into two other vehicles ahead simply because she hadn’t noticed the light had turned red. I reached for my smartphone to dial 911 only to realize the dented car in front of the line was an unmarked police car from which a uniformed officer emerged. Be aware as you drive that you need to expect the unexpected from other drivers who share the road with you.
Distracted driving is not only on the rise, it’s deadly. – In 2020, 38,680 people died in vehicular accidents in the US. That was 7.2% higher than the year before. That doesn’t count the hundreds of thousands of people who were injured or maimed by those same wrecks. If you don’t want to wind up spending the holiday season in the hospital, make sure you don’t do anything that’s likely to take your eyes off the road. Also, make sure you and your passengers buckle up before you hit the road. Let’s make this a safe and happy holiday season for everyone on your Christmas shopping list.
Diane Tait owns and operates A&B Insurance. To find out more about how you can save money on insurance, go to her site or fill out the form at right.