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Inattention blindness can change your life in a heartbeat

Driving is an important privilege. Countless teenagers have counted down the days until they can get their permits, then their driver’s licenses. Though it may be a rite of passage, it is not a right to have a driver’s license. It requires a sense of responsibility. It demands defensive driving because you can’t control what another driver does and you need to understand what to do to evade a crash, if possible.

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Today we are talking about driving distractions that change lives in one brief moment in time. One moment changes everything because of inattention blindness. Distracted driving is a game changer.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines distracted driving as any non-driving activity a person engages in while operating a motor vehicle. There are three types of distraction: visual (taking your eyes off the road), manual (taking your hands off the wheel), and cognitive (taking your mind off of what you’re doing.)

A lot of us have witnessed someone fussing with their hair or putting on their makeup when they are driving. Or maybe you have seen someone actually shaving. Other examples: programming a GPS, watching a video, reading a newspaper or book, eating or drinking, and talking or texting on a phone.

More than 700 people are injured in distracted driving crashes each day, reports the National Safety Council (NSC). Daily in America, eight people die in distracted driving crashes.

You can insist that you can multi-task quite well, but the fact is, the human mind was not designed for taking care of two tasks at the same time. Think about it: what happens when you are talking on the phone and someone standing beside you is talking to you, too. What do you get out of either conversation?

Inattention blindness is the failure to notice a visible hazard because your attention is focused elsewhere. This phenomenon occurs regularly when drivers are cognitively distracted, says the NSC. When a driver is distracted, at 25 mph you can travel the length of a football field in 10 seconds. That’s long enough to miss a stop sign or pedestrian. Just listening to a phone conversation decreases the brain’s activity by more than one-third, and slows reaction time to risks on the road.

Distracted driver research, including surveys to drivers found that 20 percent drivers ages 18-20 believe that texting does not affect their driving; 30 percent of drivers ages 21-34 see no impact at all with texting while driving. Yet those who talk on phones while driving are four times as likely to be in a crash and those who text while driving are eight times as likely to be in a crash.

What are your favorite things to do? What if a distracted driver collided with your car and you were injured, never able to do those favorite things again? What if your young child in the car seat was killed in such a crash? What if you were killed and left that child without a parent. Who would raise the child? These are not scare tactics. These are reality checks.

Even hands-free is not without risk. Just because auto makers install technical equipment in vehicles doesn’t mean they are safe to use while driving. So, what is the best recommendation? (The question, what did we do before cell phones, begs to be asked.)

When you are driving, focus on driving, alert and aware. Set the GPS, your radio or other music while you are still parked. If you must use your devices, find a safe place to stop, like a parking lot, to make calls. Silence your phone and put it out of your reach while you are driving. The goal is safe passage and living your dreams, reaching goals, living to an old age.

Family Recovery Center helps families to find ways to navigate through these challenging times. For information about the agency’s treatment and education programs, contact FRC at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468, or email, info@familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded in part by the Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.

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