3 Things You Can Do Right Now To Stop Distracted Driving : Safe @ 16
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3 Things You Can Do Right Now To Stop Distracted Driving

by Steve Mochel on 04/09/10

The good people at Webster's announced their Word of the Year for 2009 recently and it was Distracted Driving.  I know, actually 2 words, but you go argue with Webster.

Distracted Driving has become an epidemic in the US, causing almost 6000 car crash related deaths last year.  And that number is probably low because many states don't yet note whether cell phones were part of the cause of an accident.

The truth is, cell phones are without a doubt the biggest distraction we have in our cars today. According to the AAA, 1 out of 2 drivers has been hit or almost hit by a driver talking or texting on their phone.

Did you realize that talking on your phone while you drive impairs you as much, if not more than driving drunk?  The research is there and it's been proven time and time again.  And sorry my Bluetooth headset wearing friends, the research shows that hands free devices are equally as dangerous.

If you don't believe the researchers, maybe you'll believe Mythbusters Episode 33 - Cell Phones vs. Drunk Driving.  Verdict? CONFIRMED!  Actually, talking on your cell phone is worse.

We all know that texting while driving is beyond irresponsible and incredibly dangerous, but every day, we see it happening on our streets.  A police officer stopped in the other day and related the story of watching people weave while they drive.  "10 years ago, we knew that driver had been drinking.  Now, we know they're texting.."  Sobering, isn't it?

An average text message takes 5 seconds so send, so close your eyes and count to 5.  Now would you close your eyes for 5 seconds the next time you're driving down I-95 or Boston Post Road?  Of course not, but that's basically what you're doing if you're DWT (driving while texting).

There are laws that govern cell phone use and texting in NY, but clearly, they aren't working.   The government has begun PSA's and even launched a website -  distraction.gov - to combat the issue.  AT&T has launched a Texting & Driving campaign with heart-wrenching PSA's.

Utah has actually instituted a mandatory 90 day jail sentence for drivers who are caught texting while driving because authorities there believe it's as willful an act as driving drunk.

But at the end of the day, it's really up to us as individuals to decide whether or not we're going to make our roads safer by putting our cell phones away while we drive. 

I know it will be hard - we're like Pavlov's dogs when we hear that little chirp or feel the vibration of our phone. .We need to be connected 24/7 and can't wait more than 20 seonds to read the new text message.  

So here are a couple of suggestions to help you try and break your Crackberry habit.

First - put your phone out of reach while you drive.  Simple I know, but if you can't reach it, the temptation won't be as great.

Second - I know you need to be available for your kids and  spouse, so get your teenagers (or 3rd grader) to program in specific ring-tones for people you need to speak to on a regular basis.  The kids will love it - especially if you let them download their favorite songs - trust me it's worth the $ 5.00 you'll spend on ring tones.  Then, when you're driving and they need to reach you, you'll hear the special ring tone and be able to pull over and safely talk.

Lastly, if you have no self-control whatsoever, there is hope for you.  With crisis comes opportunity, and there are apps for your phone that sense (through GPS) when the phone is moving more than 10 mph and blocks incoming calls and texts.  Callers go straight to voicemail and texters receive an automatic response that tells them you're driving and will get back to them when you safely arrive at your destination.  My favorite so far is Zoomsafer (it's on my Blackberry), but just google text blocking software and you'll find a number of options.

Listen, it's not going to be easy to break this habit for any of us, but stop for a moment and remember...driving safely isn't easy either.  It takes concentration and focus - and you can't be focused when you're talking or texting.  So please, put down your phone and driver safely.

I'm hoping for Undistracted Driving as Webster's Word of the Year 2010...undistracted is a word, right?


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