"Distracted driving awareness" reads like an oxymoron, but nothing a driver does behind the wheel is more important than recognizing and minimizing things that take his or her eyes and mind off the road.
Distractions for drivers have been listed often enough that everyone should know talking on a cell phone, texting, eating, reading a map, checking a GPS device, applying makeup, fiddling with the radio or taking off a jacket while in the driver's seat puts everyone nearby at risk for injury or death. But that knowledge has translated into too little action -- or, rather, lack of action other than keeping hands on the wheel and paying attention to road conditions and traffic flow.
As this National Safety Council video released during Distracted Awareness Month 2011 emphasizes, driver distraction remains the leading cause of fatal car, truck and pedestrian accidents.
Just one or two seconds of lost focus can result in running through a stop sign, crossing the center line or median into oncoming traffic, rear-ending another vehicle, or hitting a walker or jogger. My Virginia Beach, VA-based personal injury lawyer colleagues and I have seen dozens of examples of each traffic accident. So if everyone knows which distractions to avoid while driving, and if everyone should recognize the dangers, why does the problem persist? The simple answer is that few people actively think about getting distracted. They, for lack of a better way to phrase it, fail to focus on focusing. Wolfing down that burger while it is still warm, answering a buzzing phone or getting that lipstick just right before heading into the office seems terribly important in the moment. At the same time, steering, accelerating and braking -- especially on a familiar route like the one from home to work -- seem so mechanical and ingrained that little attention is required. Each April marks a monthlong opportunity to drive home messages about how and why to resist distractions while driving. A few people will never take the lessons to heart, and probably no one will ever remain completely vigilant at all times. But missing any chance to refocus drivers on their most important task of focusing cannot be missed. EJL