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Keep your mind on the road this holiday season

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Fact: According to an estimate released by the National Safety Council, roadside fatalities in 2016 reached 40,200. Not only was this a 6 percent gain from 2015, it was a 14 percent gain from 2014.

Fact: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2016 3,450 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.

Fact: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2015 distracted drivers were responsible for 391,000 injuries.

Fact: The holiday season can be ruined for you and your loved ones by a traffic accident caused by distracted driving.

 

WHAT IS DISTRACTED DRIVING?

Talking on the telephone and texting quickly come to mind when discussing distracted driving. However, anything taking the driver’s mind off the road counts as distracted driving.

This includes using a navigation system, popping in a CD, listening to music, changing the radio station, drinking a cup of coffee, adjusting climate control, talking to a passenger, applying makeup and even daydreaming. In fact, distracted driving occurs anytime you stop devoting your complete attention to the one absolutely necessary task at hand – driving.

 

WHY IS IT DANGEROUS?

Although the human brain is capable of a great deal, it was not built for multitasking.

The great many of us can store fewer than 10 unique items in our active memory at one time. What’s more, texting or talking on your smartphone uses the same amount of your active memory as driving. For over 97 percent of us, our brains cannot text or talk and drive accurately. Unless you are among the hugely fortunate 3 percent, distracted driving can lead only down the wrong road.

What about glancing up and down from your smartphone to the road to view directions or read a text, as so many drivers do? That doesn’t offer a solution, as the brain requires several seconds to focus fully on a new task.

What’s more, while glancing down at any activity that distracts you from your driving for only one second while traveling 60 miles per hour, your car will travel 88 feet. At 70 miles per hour, your car will travel 103 feet. Combine this information with the fact it takes 4.6 seconds to fully brake when driving the average car, with reasonably good tires in normal driving conditions, and I believe you will want to keep your eyes on the road.

 

CELL PHONE USE PARTICULARLY PERNICIOUS

According to a National Safety Council report, “estimates indicate drivers using cell phones look but fail to see up to 50 percent of the information in their driving environment.” You may be looking at the road, but you may not be seeing the child racing across the street or traffic stopping up ahead.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has discovered the distraction caused by talking or texting while driving can last for as long as 27 seconds after ending a call or finishing a chat session, “meaning that, even after drivers put down the phone or stop fiddling with the navigation system, they aren’t fully engaged with the driving task.”

Why distracted driving is particularly worrisome during the holidays:

< Because many of us travel to holiday parties, family get-togethers and shopping trips to the mall or downtown, opportunities for distracted driving increase.

< Busy people are even busier during the holidays.

< The many holiday activities can increase stress and fatigue in drivers. 

< The dangers attributable to distracted driving become heightened when snow and ice are on the ground. 

Remember these distracted driving triggers will affect all other drivers on the road. Drive and cross the street defensively.

My colleagues and I at KMRD Partners wish you a happy, safe holiday season

Based in Warrington, Kirk Salmon is a sales and relationship manager concentrating on the Lehigh Valley at KMRD Partners Inc., a risk and human capital management consulting and insurance brokerage firm with three offices in southeastern Pennsylvania. He can be reached at ksalmon@kmrdpartners.com.

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