April recognized as Distracted Driving Awareness Month

LISBON – People take a lot for granted: walking, biking, baseball, cleaning house or cooking a meal, playing a board game on family game night or a movie date. Often, we don’t think about what “could” happen during one careless event that could take away forever our abilities to do the things we most enjoy.

David Teater, senior director of the National Safety Council’s Transportation Initiative, speaks with firsthand knowledge about the consequences of multi-tasking while driving. His 12-year-old son was killed, his wife injured, when a young driver, talking on her cell phone, ran a red light. She was looking straight out the windshield when the crash occurred.

The human brain, experts have learned, sequentially tasks, moving from one task to the other. It cannot multi-task. When you are watching a television show and talking on the phone, what happens? Give it a try right now. Read this article while you are watching TV and notice, can you retain what you are reading here and what you hear from your TV? Or do you zone out on one of them?

The same thing occurs when you are driving your car and talking or texting on your cell phone. Teater mentions something called “inattention blindness.” That is what happened when you were reading this interesting and educating article about distraction and missed what was happening on TV. That’s what happens when you talk or text and drive at the same time. It also occurs when someone is sitting in the passenger seat beside you as you drive and you are talking to your companion. But there is a difference. The passenger may help you to miss a crash.

“There’s a stop sign!” Or, “That’s a red light.” Or, “Car on your left.” It may be that all conversation ceases as you are approaching a dangerous situation. Most people riding in a car are aware of the driver and the area they are driving through. But when you are trying to multi-task in your car while driving, “inattention blindness” is a risky thing. Someone could be irrevocably injured and physically or mentally impaired for life. Or someone could die.

The National Safety Council advises that about every 24 seconds there is a crash involving drivers using cell phones and texting. Teater says the danger of cell phone usage and driving is four times more likely. It doesn’t matter if it’s hands-on or hands-off. The driver is distracted when attention should be focused on driving that 5,000-pound potential weapon.

Driver error can be visual (eyes are off the steering wheel and the road), mechanical (hands off the wheel) or cognitive (the brain is not engaged in the task of driving, is not in the current environment, the inattention blindness mentioned above.) The driver is looking but not seeing because brains don’t multi-task.

The NSC is working with employers all over the nation to urge cell phone usage policies for their businesses. These policies would mean that nobody would use a cell phone when they are driving a company car or their personal vehicle while they are conducting company business, while they are working on company property, using a company supplied phone or a personal phone doing company business. A full employer policy kit is available for free at .

A reported 100 people die daily in the United States with 90 percent of crashes caused by driver distraction. The number one distraction, Teater advises, is cell phone usage.

“People need to be educated,” he says.

Parents set examples for their children. It’s hard to teach children not to use their cell phones while driving if Mom and Dad are doing it. As parents become more aware of the dangers of cell phone usage while driving, they are more afraid because their children multitask while they are behind the wheel of the car.

So what can parents do?

1.) Teach your children that it is NEVER acceptable to use a cell phone while driving.

2.) Set good examples for your children. Don’t use your cell phone while driving.

3.) There are consequences for using a cell phone and driving.

In this technological age, parents usually are paying for cell phone usage and, therefore, have access to the records that will prove if their children are using their cell phones while they are driving. If they violate the rule, “No cell phones while driving,” take the phone away for whatever period of time Mom and Dad feel is the right amount, a week, a month, whatever.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration advises, “Distracted driving is a dangerous epidemic on America’s highways. In 2010 alone, over 3,000 people were killed in distracted driving crashes.

It’s just not good enough to look the other way and hope that nothing happens.

Family Recovery Center promotes the well being of individuals, families and communities with education, prevention and treatment programs for the individual, family and community. For more information about FRC programs in our community and in the schools, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468 or e-mail.