How often have you driven on auto pilot, just going through the familiar motions, but your brain is somewhere else?
I can’t count the times this has happened to me. When I was first learning to drive I took a driver’s ed course in high school. One thing that I have always remembered from that class was “you must drive defensively at all times, always be on your guard, keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road, and never allow yourself to get distracted.”
Though I remembered those words all these years, there have been times I failed to maintain them in my daily driving activities. There have been distractions, and different kinds of distractions at different stages of my life.
For example, in highschool in the 1980’s, all my friends would pile into the vehicle and laugh, talk, and change the songs on the radio as we were driving around “cruising”, and it was hard to focus on driving when all that excitement was going on. Thank God we did not have cell phones to be distracted with back then!
In college, I used to drive two hours to travel back home on the weekends. I was really tired after a long week of classes, studying for exams, and working. It was hard to focus on the road and stay awake sometimes. I would stop at the quick store and get a bag of crunchy chips hoping that munching on chips and driving with my window rolled down would keep me awake. Even driving on the road just two hours in the dark when you are tired is definitely not a good idea. Though I always made it home safely, driving sleepy is a distraction that could have a very bad outcome. I would encourage college students today to change their plans, stay at school if they are tired, go to bed and get a good night’s sleep before heading out in the morning to head back home, or anywhere they need to go that is more than a 20 to 30 minute drive away. It is just not worth risking your life, or the lives of other drivers on the road, because you are tired.
A lot of time has passed since I was in highschool and college, and technology (automobiles, cell phones, smart phones, GPS, portable movie players, etc), and driving laws have changed a little. I now use a cell phone in my everyday life, and have answered and talked on the phone when I was driving. Though I don’t call out while driving, if others call in, I have answered the call. I do not text while driving. That is a risk I am not willing to take. I definitely see how cell phones, both calling and texting, can be a distraction and why it is so important to stay focussed on what is happening on the road instead of what is happening on the phone.
I am also in the stage of my life of having a vehicle full of young children. I have six kids and that can be a whole lot of distraction at times when driving. It is hard for that many kids, of various ages and levels of maturity, to understand to be quiet when in the vehicle. For one reason or another, they always seem to need or want something, at all times. Someone is always talking, singing, or fussing. The only time they are truly quiet in the vehicle is when they are asleep. Young kids have lots of needs: there are diapers to change, puke to clean up, stops for bathrooms, stops to nurse a crying baby, hungry, thirsty, and more. I have had to really concentrate when I am in traffic when the kids have a question, or someone is having a disagreement with their sibling. I find concentrating at those times the hardest when I am pulling out onto a road, or coming to a stop and deciding which lane to be in if I have to make a turn to the left or right. Something about having so many people talking to you at once makes those decisions even more difficult.
About two years ago, the kids and I were getting ready to leave the house to attend a 4H program that I teach. We got the van loaded with all of our supplies, and got the kids fastened into their seat belts. Just as I started the ignition, suddenly an argument broke out between the two boys in the back seat, and then the baby behind my seat started crying. I was so distracted by all of the commotion that instead of putting the van into drive, I put it into reverse and hit my husband’s parked truck. The impact dented his bumper, and dented my bumper. There were no other damages or injuries. But there I was, in tears because I had been so distracted by what is going on with the kids right in my own driveway, and the end result was not a good one. Thank God that didn’t happen out on the road somewhere.
Even though we have a big family both my husband and I have tried to be very alert and pay attention to the road and other drivers at all times. But watching this video about parents and kids on the road really drives the point home of how much of a challenge it can be to decide to drive and not get distracted when you have children with you.
So why am I talking about driving distracted?
Because there is a new Decide To Drive program sponsored by the American Auto Alliance and American Academy of Orthapedic Surgeons. They have asked me to help spread the word about the dangers of driving distracted.
Decide To Drive:
(quoted from the Decide To Drive web site)
“The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the Auto Alliance want to increase awareness about the risks of distracted driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), of the nearly 33,000 roadway fatalities in 2012, there were 3,328 fatalities and approximately 421,000 injuries in distracted driving-related crashes. Orthopaedic surgeons—the specialists who put bones and limbs back together after road crashes and traumas—along with our partners, the automakers, would rather help all drivers “decide to drive” each time they get in the car and to keep bones and limbs intact.
The Decide to Drive program aims to empower drivers and passengers to speak up about distracted driving, continue the conversation at home, work and play, and reduce distracted behaviors behind the wheel. Remember, the most advanced safety feature of any vehicle is the driver. The AAOS and the Auto Alliance urges all drivers to keep their most sophisticated safety features engaged at all times: eyes on the road and hands on the wheel”.
Be sure to follow social media links and keep up with all the latest information:
The Decide to Drive program is hosting a Catchphrase Contest they can use on bumper stickers. Be sure to check it out and share your ideas. Top prize is a $1,000 Visa gift card, and also two additional phrases will be chosen and receive a $500 Visa gift card.
Turns out my Driver’s Ed instructor was right. YOU are the only one on the road who knows what YOU are going to do while driving. Decide to drive defensively and without distractions. Minimize the opportunities for distractions to happen. Keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel and most of all stay safe.
Have you ever been a distracted driver?
Please leave comments in the comment section. Thank you.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.