Put your phone away: Dis­tracted driv­ing in­cludes hands-free talk­ing

The Calvert Recorder - Southern Maryland Automotive Trends - - Front Page -

In an age of con­stant com­mu­ni­ca­tion and con­nec­tiv­ity, it can be dif­fi­cult to take a break. But drive time is when your phone should take a back­seat to safety, say ex­perts.

“You don’t need to be tex­ting to be dis­tracted by your phone,” said Kelly Nan­tel, vice pres­i­dent of com­mu­ni­ca­tions and ad­vo­cacy at the Na­tional Safety Coun­cil. “Even hands-free talk­ing is a ma­jor dis­trac­tion.”

Re­search in­di­cates driv­ers us­ing hand­held and hands-free phones only see about 50 per­cent of all the in­for­ma­tion in their driv­ing en­vi­ron­ment. This phe­nom­e­non is known as “inat­ten­tion blind­ness,” sim­i­lar to tun­nel vi­sion.

While mul­ti­task­ing is val­ued in to­day’s cul­ture, re­searchers find that the hu­man brain doesn’t ac­tu­ally per­form two tasks at the same time but rather switches at­ten­tion be­tween tasks. At your desk, this can be an ef­fec­tive and ef­fi­cient way to work, but be­hind the wheel, “mul­ti­task­ing” can be deadly.

From check­ing GPS, to fir­ing up a drive time playlist, there are count­less smart­phone-re­lated rea­sons why peo­ple take their mind off the road. And newer in-ve­hi­cle sys­tems al­low driv­ers to call, text, email, up­date so­cial me­dia and browse the In­ter­net, de­spite re­search show­ing th­ese sys­tems cause dis­trac­tion that can linger af­ter the driver fin­ishes the task.

One of the ma­jor rea- sons driv­ers to­day are so dis­tracted is one of the most sur­pris­ing — pres­sure from your fam­ily. In­deed 82 per­cent of Amer­i­cans feels their fam­ily pres­sures them the most — above friends or em­ploy­ers — to drive dis­tracted, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent NSC sur­vey.

“It is a sad irony that the peo­ple we love are ac­tu­ally jeop­ar­diz­ing our safety the most,” Nan­tel said. “If you re­ally care, don’t call to say, ‘I love you.’ In­stead, en­cour­age your fam­ily to set ev­ery­thing else aside, dis­con­nect and fo­cus only on the road.”

To pri­or­i­tize safety and re­duce your risk of be­ing in­volved in a crash, turn your com­mute into “me time” and your car into a safe sanc­tu­ary. The Na­tional Safety Coun­cil is of­fer­ing some tips to take back your drive.

• Turn off your phone when you get in the car.

• Tell your fam­ily (and any­one else ex­pect­ing to hear from you) that you will be driv­ing and will call or text them when you are parked at your des­ti­na­tion.

• Send emails and texts be­fore you start driv­ing.

• Re­turn the fa­vor. When friends, fam­ily or col­leagues are driv­ing, re­frain from plac­ing dis­tract­ing calls or send­ing texts.

Driver dis­trac­tions have joined al­co­hol and speed­ing as lead­ing fac­tors in fa­tal and se­ri­ous in­jury crashes. In re­cent years, thou­sands of peo­ple have died in crashes when driv­ers used cell phones.

The is­sue has started cap­tur­ing the at­ten­tion of po­lit­i­cal lead­ers na­tion­wide and some are tak­ing ac­tion to im­prove laws that pro­mote safe driv­ing, though no law goes far enough, say safety ex­perts, be­cause no law pro­hibits hands-free use. To learn more about the dan­gers of dis­tracted driv­ing and ef­forts to end this pub­lic health cri­sis, go to dis­tracted­driv­ing. nsc.org. StatePoint

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