I know how easy it is to get distracted while driving. There are always a million things to divide my attention—texts to be read, a song to choose on my iPod, directions to read, and of course my coffee to grab from the cupholder.
Though these distractions might seem like a normal and everyday part of driving, it turns out that taking your eyes off the road is more dangerous than it seems. Recently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirmed that distracted driving may be involved in up to 80 percent of road collisions – the leading cause of death for teens in America.
Texting is one of the most prevalent driving distractions, especially for teens and young adults who are more phone-savvy. Though over 25 states have now banned texting while driving, with Vermont being the most recent, the practice is still widespread.
“The national government has called texting while driving a national epidemic, and this is especially true for teenagers who text more than adults and do so in a more dangerous way while driving,” said Sue Cischke, Ford group vice president for Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering.
When I’m driving, it seems as though it only takes a few seconds to read a text or find a song on my iPod. However, a recent study conducted by Ford Motor Company, using new high-tech occlusion goggles to track vision, showed study participants spent an average of 25 seconds with their eyes off the road when selecting a song with a hand-held MP3 player. I have to admit that it’s true—if a song I want isn’t in a pre-made playlist, I’ll usually search through my iPod for it and scrolling through all the artist names definitely takes time.
Ford is working on a new system that shifts away from the use of handheld objects. SYNC, a voice-recognition software system, provides hands-free access to directions, traffic and news reports, and music. By saying the name of the song you want, the system will recognize your voice and choose the song for you—and when using SYNC to choose a song, study participants only took their eyes off the road for an average of two seconds.
Though SYNC may be the way of the future for all cars, not everyone drives a Ford or can afford the system right now, so safety information about driving distractions is still important. If you need to read or respond to that all important text, ask a passenger to read it out loud to you, or simply pull over. If you’re on a highway, wait for a rest stop.
Texting and driving may be a national epidemic, but the 2010 GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test revealed that 1 in 4 drivers admitted to driving while talking on the phone, eating, adjusting the radio, or using an iPod. For me, talking on the phone and eating are two of the things that most distract me while driving, so I wait for a rest stop. Adjusting the radio can be made easier and quicker by using the radio preset buttons most cars have. Rather than selecting songs on my iPod, I select one of the playlists I make for driving or simply put my songs on shuffle, so I don’t have to select songs individually.
By keeping their eyes on the road as much as possible, young drivers can minimize their risk of accident. Though I agree it is tempting to multitask while driving, the risks outweigh the benefits of sending that text or finding that one song.
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