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October: Distracted driving awareness month

As her car keys and driver’s license were taken away by her family, Louise spoke up, “I have been driving all of my life!” She was not a happy woman at that moment. Her daughter knew better than to argue with her or the progressing health condition that affected response time behind the steering wheel. She wanted to say, “Driving a car is a privilege, not a right.” But what she said was, “Mom, if you had an accident when you were driving and a child – or anyone else – was hurt or killed, you would never be able to live with yourself.”

Reluctantly, Louise accepted the loss, but that didn’t stop her from driving her car when she had an opportunity. Where did she find extra keys for that car?

Health issues, including substance abuse, affect a driver’s ability to react quickly at a dangerous moment when they are driving. Then there are the distractions of technology. When you are driving is not the time to be text messaging or answering a phone call. Even hands-free technology in your vehicle requires you to take your eyes off of the roadway on which you are driving, for just a moment, to touch that accept button. And how many times have you heard someone say, “It happened so fast! There wasn’t time — .”

How many times have you told your kids not to use their cell phones while they are driving? That should be right up there with “Wear your seatbelt,” “No car full of kids,” and “No drinking and driving but if you do drink, call for a ride, don’t drive.”

Do you ever wonder what we did before cell phones?

“We all have tasks to accomplish and a limited amount of time to do them,” says the National Safety Council (NSC). “It is only natural to think that hours spent driving, once thought of as wasted time, could now be made ‘productive’ with use of the phone.”

The NSC goes on to say, “Research shows that any driver use of electronic devices increases cognitive distraction – the inability to focus on a primary task such as driving. The human brain is not capable of multitasking or doing two things at once.”

If you absolutely have to take a phone call or answer a text message, pull to a safe spot off the side of the road to do it for your own safety.Is it really more important than you life … or maybe someone else’s?

There are four types of distracted driving: Cognitive distraction, when a task involves thinking about something other than driving; Manual, when the driver has to take a hand off of the steering wheel and manipulate a device; Visual, looking away from the roadway; Visual/manual, drawing eyes and a hand off the steering wheel to manipulate a device.

The NSC’s report, “Understanding Driver Distraction,” can be found at www.nsc.org. It states that eight people each day die on the road in distraction affected crashes. There were 2,841 deaths attributed to distracted driving in 2018. There were 276,000 injured persons and 659,000 distraction-affected crashes with property damage only.

We do not multi-task. Our attention jumps quickly from one task to another. When we aren’t alert, aren’t paying attention to surroundings when we are driving, we and others are at risk of injury or death. Driving should never be a secondary task. There are many more cars on the road than there used to be. Be alert and aware.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. Visit the web site at www.familyrecovery.org. Family Recovery Center is funded in part by the Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.

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