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Too Many Distractions Behind the Wheel

People talking on mobile phones tend to let their eyes fixate. Their conversations often dominate their consciousness and their eye activity usually slows dramatically. If you are among the people who use a phone as you drive, you can test this conclusion yourself. The next time you find yourself focused on an important or interesting behind-the-wheel conversation, upon hanging up, see what you can recall about what was happening around you as you were talking. You may discover that you paid scant attention to your mirrors and that you took for granted the safety of intersections you passed through. You may find that distant information was ignored and that the changing relationships of the vehicles around you didn’t often enter your mind.

Eating or fumbling with paperwork can also create fixed stares. For example, reaching for an item to eat or grabbing an address book on the passenger seat may only take a few seconds. That may seem harmless until you look at some statistics. If a vehicle is moving at forty miles per hour, it will travel about 180 feet in just three seconds. That’s more than half the length of a football field – too far to be traveling without knowing what is happening around you. The five seconds it can take to dial a number, read an address or take in a single sentence on a page can put you in the hospital – or worse. Impact with another object always takes less than a second, and that’s how quickly things can change.

Space is a driver’s out in the event of the unexpected. That is why managing space to maximize margin for error should be an ongoing activity. Small adjustments to the throttle can reposition a driver to take advantage of available space. Alert drivers with good skills make these types of adjustments constantly and automatically. Distracted drivers usually fail to anticipate the unexpected and often fail to position themselves within available space.

Drivers usually get away with juggling multiple tasks when other people in traffic cooperate. But when the unexpected occurs, multi-tasking drivers are at a significant disadvantage. They usually have no plan, no escape route and little awareness of their options. That is a formula for disaster.

The list above makes it clear the risks are great when you are using a mobile phone or are distracted by other activities while driving. You must avoid these distractions while behind the wheel. Let incoming calls ring through to voice mail and check messages after you pull over. If you must take a call, keep it short. Delay doing other activities until your vehicle is stopped. Remember your safety and the safety of those around you are at stake.

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