distracted driving

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Crash Diet

Distracted driving was an epidemic without a name until 2010 when then United States Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood coined the phrase, but it has had unfortunate staying power in the American tradition. Advocates for safe driving now work tirelessly to raise awareness surrounding this important issue, and the focus is often on cellphone use.

Indeed, cell phones are the new nemesis to safe driving—whether it’s texting, talking, shuffling an iPod, adjusting a route on the GPS, etc., but the issue extends far beyond that. One of the most dangerous distractions is one that sometimes gets overlooked because it seems so second nature to us: eating.

A study conducted by the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that eating while driving increases the odds of a crash by a staggering 80%.

As a country, we are so addicted to the concept of multitasking that we struggle to accept that driving is simply a time for driving, and not a time to attempt crossing anything else off the to-do list. In movies, television shows, and commercials how often do we see images of people eating a burger behind the wheel, sipping an iced tea? Not only are we bombarded with images of this in the media, but we also see it in our own lives, whether it is the person with whom we are carpooling or the stranger we see on the highway. Maybe we have done it, and maybe we want to give ourselves a free pass on this one, but we cannot.

It has to stop. No distracted driving activity should get a free pass; they are ALL contributing to the number one killer of teens in this country.

Put the chips away and resist that protein bar. Suffer through the thirst until you can pull over somewhere safe to take a break from your road trip. Change your morning ritual. Coffee is actually the worst offender of them all—it’s piping hot and risks spillage. And if the knowledge that you’re upping your odds of crashing is not enough, the knowledge that car crashes are the number one killer of teens is. Role model good driving behaviors.  Every. Time.

A Story that Never Needed to be Told

There is a reason a family would choose to share the worst moment of their life with complete strangers. The affected family members of crash victims join the Impact Teen Drivers team because it is their genuine desire that no other family ever experience the immeasurable pain of losing a loved one in a preventable car crash. 

Sydnee was just under a month away from turning 18 when she lost her life in a distracted driving crash. Described by friends and family as loving and adventurous, “with a sixth sense for recognizing when someone needed a shoulder to cry on or a word of encouragement,” Sydnee had a future as bright as her personality.  

On the night of October 18th, 2013, Sydnee was driving to a Pumpkin Festival with two of her closest friends in the car. The road was flat, weather conditions unremarkable. Later, first responders would disclose that phone distraction was the singular cause of the crash. Sydnee’s decision to use her phone caused her to lose control of her car, and her decision not to wear her seatbelt caused her to lose her life.

 Sydnee’s remarkable family chooses to tell their story not because it is a sad story. They paint a vibrant picture of an effervescent young lady, whose future ended prematurely, and of preventable causes.  They tell their story because it is a story that never needed to be told—a story about events that never needed to occur. They tell their story to save lives.

Reckless and distracted driving IS the number one killer of teens in America, and it is 100% preventable.

Do not use your phone behind the wheel of a car: no text, phone call, nothing will ever be worth taking your life or someone else’s life.

Wear your seatbelt 100% of the time, and wear it properly 100% of the time.

Take responsibility as a passenger. Be attentive and speak up: everyone in the car has responsibility for making the drive safe.

Share this message, and most importantly, don’t let it happen to you. 


A Good Habit is Hard to Break

Setting a glass of a recovering alcoholic’s favorite drink in from of him/her and instructing, “Do not drink this,” would be unkind and unreasonable. If someone were trying to quit smoking, the first step to quitting would probably be to avoid purchasing cigarettes. When someone has a problem with a certain substance, he/she might choose to consciously avoid situations in which that substance will be present. The same principles apply for circumventing other risky behaviors, including those done while driving.    

 What distracts you when you drive? If it’s your phone, instead of tormenting yourself with having it in your lap when you drive, why not turn it off and put it somewhere out of reach BEFORE you start driving?

 It might not be your cell phone that distracts you when you drive. For some, it’s food or beverages. For some it’s music. The important thing it to understand what your temptations are, and devise strategies to overcome them. If you are an avid morning latte drinking, it may mean revising your routine to allow for an extra ten minutes to be spent at the coffee shop. If you have fallen into a pattern of craving gum mid-journey, make the conscious decision to pop that gum in your mouth before you start the drive. This way, you’re not grappling with the temptation to make that dangerous reach for it while you’re on the road.

What is always comes down to with driving is CHOICE. Every driver is presented with hundreds, arguably thousands of possible decisions every time he/she drives. If you make enough good decisions in regards to a particular practice, you will form a good habit; the good news about a good habit is that it’s just as hard to break as a bad one. We forget that every time we stop at a red light, we have made a decision to do so. Every time we look both ways before turning into a busy intersection, we made a choice. These choices are so engrained that we don’t even think about them most of the time—now we need to consciously commit to making new life-saving choices. Your distractions, your decisions, your destiny. 

Top 5 Excuses for Using Your Smartphone While Driving

I recently came upon this article about preventing car crashes (written by a personal injury expertise who sees this kind of thing all the time), and it got me thinking about how easy it is to just be a safe driver. A lot of it comes down to a little patience - to wait until you get to your destination to do something that otherwise there would be less risk for. But we always find ourselves making excuses. Here are the top 5 excuses you and I probably use on a regular basis for texting, tweeting, reading - smartphone activities etc., and why they are completely invalid

1)    “I had to send it now!”

If you really need to send a text “now,” you should have no problem finding a safe place to pull over. In 2013, there were 445 fatalities from cell phone-distraction driving, and if that doesn’t seem like a lot, add that onto the whopping 34,000 injuries from the same conditions. That’s a huge number of people hurt by this. Take a short minute or two to pull over, or wait until you reach your destination.

2)    “Don’t worry! I’m good at it!”

I’ve heard this a lot, but both psychologically and scientifically, nobody is actually a properly focused driver while texting – 37% of your brain activity is now focused on texting when it should be on the primary task of driving.

3)    “I can text without looking!”

The visual distraction is only one part of the equation – texting is a cognitive distraction as well. This means that your focus is not completely on driving – making your response time slower and lessening your awareness of your surroundings. Nor does it make a difference for how long it takes you to send said text, as a recent study by AAA found that mental distractions can last up to 27 seconds after a distraction has tangibly taken place! That is an extremely long time to not be focused while driving, and is, again, simply putting too much at risk.

4)    “I was at a stoplight!”

A RightTurn.com blogger put it best when she wrote “When I see other drivers on their phone roll through a stop sign... [it makes me] glad [that I don’t use my cell phone while driving].” Yes, you may be stopped but you still need to be aware of what’s going on around you. Unaware driving has led to me going through a stop light as well. Even if you’re fully stopped, you could be not looking and somebody starts backing up due to an action by the cars in front of them (which I have seen happen first hand), you could get rear ended and crash could occur. Similarly, other people run lights, so stay attentive, no matter how boring it might seem or how important that next tweet feels.

5)    “There was nobody around!”

I have literally been backed into by somebody at 3 am on a highway when nobody else was on the road. They just stopped for a second, weren’t paying attention, assumed nobody was around because of the time and they were (I guess) ignoring their mirrors. You never know when a person or other may jump out, or something unusual like this may happen. I live in Idaho, and deer can pop up pretty much anywhere. The last thing I want to do, not just for the deer but for my car, is hit one due to my negligence while texting. Don’t expect that unexpected things can’t happen - keep any eye out. It could save a life.


Robert Lanterman is a freelance writer and unprofessional musician from Boise, ID. Learn about his love for Jesus, pizza, and obscure punk bands at Twitter.