“The Media” Distracted Driving and the NHTSA

Television, newspapers, online news sources, and state and federal government appear to be giving a lot of lip service to the dangers of distracted driving.  Along with the snippets of information, it seems a lot of time and taxpayer dollars are being debated concerning legal limitations on cell phone use, texting devices, and visual navigation aids while driving a motor vehicle.

It is time for professional drivers to respond to the foolishness of what is being reported and regurgitated, what is being studied and quantified, and what is actually happening on America’s roads (and sometimes on private property).

It is well established that a drivers reaction time to respond to a given situation is slower in bright sunlight than at night.  It has been quantified by professional race drivers that items hanging from mirrors cause a lowering of driver response time in critical situations.  The effects of simply driving after a meal have been quantified at local drag strips across the country by drivers who track in great detail every variable that may reduce their efficiency at the starting line.

Snow, rain, traffic lights, signs and billboards, pedestrians, road markings, traffic, bicycles, skateboarders, school zones, speed bumps, high beams, passengers, radios and CD players, all play a role in distracting a driver’s eyes.  That said, many of us simply drive to work with a hot cup of coffee next to us, talking on the phone ( hand held or otherwise), tailgating the person ahead or being upset because the person behind is following too close for comfort.

The ultimate problem is priorities.  If we are preparing a meal and a television or radio show ends, we continue preparing our meal until we have a convenient time to change the channel but if the phone rings we are conditioned to drop everything and answer it.  If we are having a conversation with someone and the phone rings we usually answer the phone at the expense of our conversation and if we do not, we are distracted by it to the point where our concentration is diminished.

When driving a motor vehicle on a public way, that single activity needs to be our number one priority, to the exclusion of all else, if we are to protect ourselves and the safety of those around us.  My personal “right” to embrace my “freedom” stops when that right infringes upon someone else.

Forget about multi tasking.  It does not work in a driving situation on a public road because too many variables exist that can go wrong.  We have people who text while walking and sometimes do not look both ways before crossing the road.  I witnessed a person texting while riding a bicycle last summer while in traffic with no hands on the handlebars and while wearing headphones.  Sometimes I suspect modern medicine has achieved the pinnacle of allowing our species to survive to the extent of reversing the concept of survival of the fittest and we have entered into an era of diminished common sense to the point where we refuse to accept responsibilities for actions known to cause harm.

So what do we do?  First we require a driving test every four years for everybody who wishes to drive a vehicle, regardless of age.  Second we register and inspect every device that uses public roads, including bicycles, and require insurance for bicycle riders as well as drivers.  Third, we require wireless device manufacturers to implement technology to disable those devices when within a moving vehicle.  These devices would be cell phones, tablets, and laptops, unless the vehicle is in park.  This technology already exists and just like seat belts should be required of all mobile device manufacturers.  Automotive computers are fairly standardized in terms of capability and implementation would be far less difficult than many people think.

Education, limited legislation, and common sense can reduce that chance of an accident far more than grandstanding politicians, media rating “specials” or special interest groups who protect the pocketbooks of large corporations.

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